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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

30 Models Considered
30 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
88 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for Best women’s plus-size dresses

It’s safe to say there are countless styles of dresses on the market, which means you’ll feel spoiled for choice when you go shopping for one. That said, there are a few dress styles that you may want to consider for your wardrobe. A little black dress, for example, is a versatile style that can be dressed up or down. Classic maxi dresses are a great option when comfort is a priority. A formal dress or evening gown is another essential wardrobe staple and an easy go-to for special occasions.

Ready to add a new dress to your wardrobe? No matter which style you’re shopping for, it’s important to find one that suits your style. To help you find the right one, we put together this buying guide on plus-size dresses. We cover important features to compare, provide information about pricing, and share a few fashion tips along the way.

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Many dresses come with spare buttons. They’re either attached to the tag in a tiny plastic bag or sewn into seams.

Considerations when choosing

To help narrow down your choices, it’s helpful to know the differences between popular styles.

Little black dress

The little black dress (LBD) is largely considered one of the most important styles to emerge from the twentieth century. Worn by fashion icons including Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and even Betty Boop, the little black dress is a flattering, versatile design that can be worn for a multitude of occasions.

While the little black dress takes on a wide variety of styles, it’s usually cut to accentuate the waist and create an hourglass silhouette. Hemlines vary considerably among little black dresses, but they often fall just above the knee or just below it.

Sheath dress

Sheath dresses fall straight down the body with vertical lines, though some styles are slightly tapered at the natural waistline. They have no discernable waist seam, and hemlines usually fall somewhere around the knee. Sheath dresses are popular for everything from business casual wear to cocktail wear, and many styles also fit into the little black dress category.

Shift dress

Shift dresses are form-fitting and accentuate curves, giving the body an hourglass silhouette. This is achieved through darts around the bust as well as a strategic panel design that shapes the waist with vertical seams. More often than not, these styles feature boat or scoop necklines, but you may also see V necklines, cowl necklines, and asymmetrical necklines.

Shirtdress

The shirtdress draws inspiration from a business dress shirt. The style cinches the waist with a thin belt and details like fancy buttons or unique pockets. Shirtdresses are usually made with crisp materials that require ironing or dry cleaning. While classic shirtdresses feature hemlines between the knee and mid-calf, some styles are full-length and graze the ankles.

Bodycon dress

Bodycon dresses are tight-fitting dresses made with stretch materials that hug every curve of the body. They’re considered fashion forward and are most often worn to evening events.

While incredibly flattering, bodycon dresses are also incredibly revealing. Not only do they show off curves, they’re prone to showing underwear and shapewear lines. For that reason, bodycon dresses are considered to be somewhat of an acquired taste.

Wrap dress

Wrap dresses have a similar construction to bathrobes, as one side folds over the other and is secured with a tie belt. The majority feature V-necklines that cross over or beneath the bust. Wrap dresses often have A-line silhouettes because they are tapered at the waist, and the skirt has moderate flow to it. Notably, the bust of a wrap dress is often the focal point.

Classic maxi

Maxi dresses are full-length dresses that graze the floor. While fitted around the bust and the smallest part of the waist, the skirt tends to be flowy with quite a bit of material. The maxi dress is considered a forgiving silhouette because it conceals the belly and hips. The style allows for free, unobstructed movement, which is why it’s a popular choice for casual and travel wear.

T-shirt dress

A newer arrival to the scene is the T-shirt dress. Similar to the shirtdress, it is inspired by a classic garment: the plain tee. These styles, made with soft cotton blends, are generously cut and lack seams at the waist.

T-shirt dresses are usually shorter styles, though it’s not unusual to see them with mid-calf hemlines. Since T-shirt dresses don’t accentuate any curves, they’re often worn with belts to achieve a more flattering fit.

Evening gown

The most formal dress style, the evening gown, is a floor-length dress featuring a full, flowy skirt. It’s usually fitted through the bodice and shoulders to create an hourglass silhouette. Evening gowns are made with luxurious materials including silk, chiffon, tapestry, satin, tulle, or lace. Elaborate styles feature embellishments like rhinestones, glitter, faux flowers, or appliques.

Choose your necklace based on the neckline of your dress. High necklines look better with longer necklaces, while scoop necklines look best with shorter or statement necklaces.

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Features

Waistline

There are around a dozen types of waistlines for dresses. The most common waistlines include the natural waist, empire waist, raised waist, dropped waist, and no-waistline.

Natural waistlines fall across the belly button, whereas empire waistlines are cut just below the bust. Raised waistlines are cut between natural and empire waistlines. Dropped waistlines exist just below the top of the hips. No-waistline styles, such as those seen in sheath dresses, lack a defined waistline altogether.

Sleeves

Depending on the style, a dress may have short or long sleeves.

Short-sleeve dresses might feature cap, puffed, or raglan sleeve styles. There are also fitted sleeves that reach down the bicep and may touch the upper part of the elbow.

Long-sleeve dresses include styles that fall below the elbow. The most common styles are three-quarter sleeves and full-length sleeves. More fashionable sleeves, often seen in unique dresses, include kimono, cold shoulder, and bishop sleeve styles.

Sizing

Women’s plus-size dresses are available in sizes 3X and above as well as sizes 16 and above. When shopping for a well-fitting dress, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. For one, sizing can vary considerably among manufacturers. Just because you’re a 4X in one brand doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be a 4X in every brand.

Dress material may also impact fit, not to mention comfort level. For example, fitted dresses are often made with non-flexible materials. For this reason, many people size up for the best fit and get the dress tailored accordingly.

When considering dresses made with materials prone to shrinking, like cotton, it’s not unusual to size up. After a few washes, a dress made of cotton (and some cotton blends) may shrink by as much as one to two sizes.

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 Did You Know?
Some sleeveless dresses have hidden buttons that secure bra straps to prevent them from slipping or peeking out from beneath material.
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Women’s plus-size dresses: prices

Inexpensive: Dresses priced below $50 include a broad range of casual and business casual garments. Some styles in this price bracket are manufactured by reputable brands and are generally well-made. Unfortunately, quality is hit-or-miss with lesser-known brands in this bracket.

Mid-range: Dresses priced between $75 and $250 are usually made by well-known fashion brands. They’re incredibly well-made with premium materials and are designed to last. While quite a few casual and business casual dresses exist here, there are only a handful of more formal styles.

Expensive: Dresses costing $300 and above include those made by leading fashion brands. While they have high construction quality, in many cases, price is driven by the brand name. This range also includes the majority of formal dresses and evening gowns.

If your dress only has a few wrinkles, hang it in the bathroom during a hot shower. It might be enough to smooth them out instead of spending extra time ironing or steaming them.

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Tips

  • Add dress care to your budget. Even if a dress seems like a steal of a deal, check its care instructions before finalizing your purchase. If it’s dry clean only, be prepared to shell out money on a regular basis to clean it.
  • Find a good tailor or seamstress. For a dress to fit like a glove, you may need to bring it to a tailor. With a few nips and tucks, the dress will look like it was custom-made.
  • Invest in a garment bag. If you travel often to formal or business events, consider investing in a garment bag. Dresses stay intact and sustain fewer wrinkles when packed in garment bags instead of regular suitcases.
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Invest in a quality set of structured hangers for your dresses. Plastic or wooden hangers with contoured arms and nonslip detail are ideal.

FAQ

Q. What types of undergarments should I wear with a dress?

A. No matter what dress style you buy, it’s a good idea to wear a seamless bra and panties. Some people invest in shapewear to smooth their figure, especially when wearing form-fitting or lightweight dresses. To keep undergarments undetectable, choose those with nude or neutral colors.

Q. Are maxi dresses too informal for work?

A. It depends on the style of dress as well as your company’s dress code. Some maxi dresses are made with premium materials and can be considered business casual with the right accessories. However, because maxi dresses aren’t fitted, they may be considered too informal for business wear.

Q. Is it better to steam or iron a dress?

A. It depends on the fabric. Materials like cotton, linen, and denim should be ironed. In some cases, these materials may require spray starch to help relax and coax out stubborn wrinkles. Delicate materials like silk, wool, and polyester blends should be steamed.

 

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