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Buying Dresses

Few items in a woman's wardrobe look as effortlessly feminine as a great dress. Whether you're headed to a weekend brunch with friends or to a black-tie event, the right dress can help you feel confident and chic. With so many shapes and styles to choose from, it's important to understand which dresses are best for your body type as well as for the occasion.



Types of Dresses

A-line Dress

An A-line dress features a skirt that is fitted at the waist and gradually widens toward the hem.



A-line dresses are best for...

Wedding attendees: The classic shape of an A-line dress makes it a great choice for formal events when paired with heels and statement jewelry.

Office workers: Sophisticated without being risque, an A-line dress looks particularly professional under a blazer or tailored jacket.

Shift Dress

This type of dress falls straight from the shoulders with no defined waist and is often sleeveless.




Shift dresses are best for...

Women on the move: Because they lack a defined waist, shift dresses are easy to move around in, making them a comfortable look that can be dressed up or down.

Young women: Shift dresses are most appropriate for young to middle-aged women because they are often short and sleeveless.

Sheath Dress

This type of dress fits close to the body and typically features a back or side slit to make it easier to walk in.




Sheath dresses are best for...

Dinner dates: A sheath's slim-fitting shape lends it to sexy occasions such as hot dinner dates.

Black-tie events: Nothing says glamour like a form-fitting black or metallic sheath dress with glittering jewelry.

Shirt Dress

A shirt dress borrows details from a man's shirt, such as a collar, button front or cuffed sleeves, and it usually does not have a seam at the waist.




Shirt dresses are best for...

Running errands: A cotton or chambray shirt dress looks effortlessly chic when you're on the go. Cinch it with a belt at the waist for a more put-together look.

Trips to the beach: The breezy materials and crisp styling of a classic shirt dress make it a great pick for trips to the coast and bicycling along the beachfront.

Maxi Dress

A maxi dress is an informal, ankle-length dress that is form-fitting on top and flows loosely over the rest of the body.



Maxi dresses are best for...

Vacations: The maxi dress is typically made from jersey knit fabric, giving it a comfortable, flowing shape that won't get wrinkled in your suitcase.


Summer weekends: Made in a variety of fun prints and colors, maxi dresses look both laid-back and elegant for everything from a Fourth of July barbecue to an outdoor wedding.

Wrap dress

This type of dress features a front closure formed by wrapping one side of the dress over the other and knotting the attached ties around the waist.




Wrap dresses are best for...

Business casual offices: Originally designed by Diane von Furstenberg specifically for women in the workplace, the wrap dress looks smooth and polished while also giving women a comfortable outfit to wear all day.

A vintage vibe: The wrap dress has been an iconic shape since it exploded onto the fashion scene in the 1970s. Vintage-inspired floral and geometric prints look retro but timeless.


Intended to be worn in warmer weather, a sundress is light, loose and typically sleeveless.




  • Choosing the right shape of dress for your body type can mean the difference between an ill-fitting garment and a killer look
  • The length of a dress needs to be appropriate for the occasion

Sundresses are best for...

Garden parties: Sundresses are made to be worn under the sun, so don a pretty print and pair it with a strappy pair of sandals or wedges to make a splash at a garden party.

Picnics: With their flowing skirts and comfortable cotton fabrics, sundresses are ideal for adding a little elegance and femininity to your picnic attire.


Features to consider when buying a dress


  • Choosing the right shape of dress for your body type can mean the difference between an ill-fitting garment and a killer look
  • The length of a dress needs to be appropriate for the occasion

Learn more about how to hem a dress




  • Cotton dresses are breathable and comfortable in warm weather
  • Silk dresses look luxurious but may be difficult to clean
  • Wool dresses have a tailored feel that works well at the office
  • Polyester or rayon dresses are affordable and can feature fun prints and colors




  • A plunging V-neck is sexy for a night out but wouldn't be suitable for the office
  • Timeless shapes like the sweetheart neckline work for almost any occasion
  • Choose a neckline that will complement your bust while still providing full support



Care Instructions

  • Cotton and linen dresses wash easily but may wrinkle when wearing
  • Wool or silk dresses typically must be dry cleaned
  • Consider whether you'll be able to wash your dress as often as you want to wear it



Do you need a new dress?

  • With so many places to wear a dress, it's best to be prepared with many different styles in your wardrobe. That way, you won't wind up wearing a sundress to an evening event or a sheath dress to a backyard barbecue.
  • Dresses are a great way to have a lot of impact with just one purchase. A gorgeous dress will catch everyone's eye and help you feel confident and fashionable.
  • Dresses don't have to be expensive. While a ball gown will set you back a bit, many sundresses and maxi dresses can be bought at prices that won't break your budget.



Bottom Line

Dresses come in a dizzying array of options, so it's best to start by deciding where you want to wear your new frock. Next, choose a dress shape that complements your body type so that your form makes a strong, womanly impact. Don't be afraid to be bold when it comes to patterns and colors; as long as the dress fits and is appropriate for the occasion, you'll be turning heads for all the right reasons.