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How to Buy a Dress: Everything You Need to Know

A dress is an essential for every woman's wardrobe. Ranging from casual to formal, this piece presents a chic and effortless option to take you through work, weekends and more. Buying the right dress may feel overwhelming, but don't panic. We've broken down the best and most versatile styles to help you fashion a look that will flatter for your figure and match any event.

Types of Dresses

A-Line Dresses

The A-line dress features a skirt that is fitted at the waist and gradually widens toward the hem. A popular form of this style is the fit and flare dress.

  • How to wear it - The classic shape of an A-line dress makes it a great choice for formal events when paired with heels and statement jewelry. Or, wear it with a cardigan or tailored jacket for a sophisticated, office-appropriate look.
  • Consider this - Flared skirts tend to fall above the knee. Look for a more weighty knit or woven design to provide extra shape and coverage.

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Shift Dresses

A shift dress falls straight from the shoulders to the hem with no defined waist. The loose and flowing shape smooths and flatters nearly every figure.

  • How to wear it - Because it features a less structured cut, a shift dress offers a comfortable and movable feel perfect for daytime wear. The casual look gives you the ideal opportunity to wear your favorite flats.
  • Consider this - To offset the boxy cut, look for a shift with darts at the bust for a touch of shape.
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Sheath Dresses

This type of dress fits close to the body. It is often contoured through the hips and typically features a back or side slit to make it easier to walk in.

  • How to wear it - A sheath's slim-fitting shape lends it to dinner dates and black tie events. For a more professional look, opt for a sheath with a high neck and knee length.
  • Consider this - A touch of spandex helps a sheath dress hold its shape and allow more comfortable movement.

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Shirt Dresses

A shirt dress borrows details from a man's shirt, such as a collar, button front or cuffed sleeves. Another popular version of this dress is the utility dress.

  • How to wear it - A chambray shirt dress looks effortlessly chic when you're on the go, while gauzy chiffon gives a shirt dress more party-ready look.
  • Consider this - The fit of a shirt dress can vary. Some dresses offer a casual shift cut, while others may be more fitted. Add a belt if you’re looking for a more put-together look.

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Maxi Dresses

This lengthy style falls to the ankles. The maxi dress is usually formfitting on top and flows loosely over the rest of the body.

  • How to wear it - The maxi dress shows off a comfortable, flowing shape. Simple, clean lines make a maxi dress appropriate for everything from weekend getaways to outdoor weddings.
  • Consider this - Jersey knit fabrics root a maxi dress on casual territory, while woven fabrics like chiffon or even twill elevate the look for professional and formal settings.
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Wrap Dresses

A wrap dress features a front closure formed by wrapping one side of the dress over the other. It frequently includes long sleeves and a tie at the waist.

  • How to wear it - Originally designed by Diane von Furstenberg specifically for women in the workplace, the wrap dress looks smooth and polished while also ensuring a comfortable fit flattering to most figures.
  • Consider this - Patterns enhance the style of this dress. Try out a vintage-inspired floral or bold geometric print for a bit of drama.
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Party Dresses

A party dress is typically woven and includes a variety of embellishments, such as semisheer panels, beading, lace or feathers.

  • How to wear it - A variety of fits and lengths are available for a party dress. A night on the town calls for a short, more fitted party dress. A dress for a formal event like a wedding should have more structure and a longer length.
  • Consider this - Jewelry should be kept to a minimum with a party dress. Let the gorgeous detailing shine on its own.
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Dress Features 

Know Your Style Makers & Breakers

Body Type

Always make sure to choose a dress that accentuates your best features. Need a little help identifying what looks best on your frame? Check out some tips in How to Choose the Best Dress for Your Body Type.


  • Cotton - Cotton ensures breathable and comfortable wear in warm weather.
  • Woven fabrics - This type of fabric has a tailored feel that works well at the office.
  • Polyester and rayon - These are affordable, feel silky and stretchy. Both typically feature fun prints and colors
  • Ponte knit fabrics - Ponte knit has more weight and provide more coverage.
  • Spandex - Spandex ensures a formfitting dress holds its shape while keeping it movable

Care Instructions

Remember, to keep your dresses looking fabulous, it’s crucial to know how to care for them. Here are a few pointers:

  • Cotton and linen dresses wash easily but may wrinkle when wearing.
  • Wool or silk dresses typically must be dry cleaned.
  • Avoid ironing lace, which can singe the delicate fabric.
  • Consider hand washing when appropriate; it reduces the wear on fabric.