The Plus Size Fashion Guide to Formal Wear

The holidays are around the corner and that may spell holiday parties or even holiday weddings that call for the perfect special occasion dress.  Here to help us plus size fashionista’s get that perfect party (or wedding party dress!) is celebrity plus-size style expert and David’s Bridal Style Council Member Nicole Brewer.  She has shared her plus size expertise on shows such as The Rachel Ray Show and now she’s here to answer your most pressing fashion questions when it comes to formal wear.


What type of special occasion dresses are most flattering for: Women with a bigger bust should look for special occasion dresses with simple necklines that really open up the bustline. Avoid styles with high necklines, as they can make the bust area appear larger than it actually is. Draw the eye’s attention away from the bustline downward towards such lovely distractions as beautiful full skirts that balance out one’s shape or intricately detailed hemlines. I love the portrait collar on this David’s Bridal dress, as it truly opens up the neckline.  The criss-cross bodice cinches below the bust, creating a gorgeous, slimmer silhouette. (Style 251032, $119).

Busty women.

Curvy/plus sized women. Curvy, full-figured women should choose styles that celebrate their curves. They need to choose a dress with strategically placed accents that accentuate their favorite assets, while disguising their not-so favorite ones. Take this beautiful V-neck jersey party dress. The jersey fabric beautifully flatters her curves, while the gorgeous jeweled ribbon belt detail that stylishly defines the waistline. (Style 299421W, $99)

 Petite plus sized women. Petite, plus-sized women should shop for dresses that elongate their silhouette. Vertical details – such as top-stitching, small strategically placed beading or embroidered patterns – draw the eye up and down make her figure appear longer and leaner. Knee-length skirts that reveal her legs also give the illusion of a longer silhouette. Women will look chic in this mock two-piece knee-length David’s Bridal special occasion style. (Style 355500, $119). The stretch taffeta fabric is very forgiving and the shorter length of the skirt allows petite women to appear taller than they really are.


What type of undergarments do you recommend for these flattering types of dresses you just mentioned?

Undergarments and shapewear are just as important as the dress itself, as they build the appropriate foundation to create an overall flawless look at the next big event. There are a variety of undergarments – from longline bras to spandex shapers – that help to hide and disguise any unfavorable assets while accentuating favorite ones. See below for some of my recommended undergarments for the above body types.

Busty women. For women with a bigger bust, a super-shaping bra works best, as it provides full coverage while slightly decreasing her bust size. The soft, wide straps help supports the larger bust and are easily disguised under a strappy dress. (Bra style 7000, $42)

The curvy plus sized woman. Curvy, full-figured women should look for a high-waist, mid-thigh shaper that smoothes and firms the stomach, hips and thigh areas. Assets for David’s Bridal mid-thigh shaper (style 204, $24) will create a leaner silhouette and hide any bulges or panty lines.  

The petite plus sized woman. High-waist shapers are perfect for the petite plus-sized woman looking to create an all-over leaner, longer silhouette. This shaper (Style 244 ($32), smoothes and firms the tummy, hips and thighs to make her body appear slimmer and leaner in her special occasion dress.


Are there particular types of fabrics that plus size women should stay away from? What should they choose instead?

Women should celebrate their curves and instead of hiding in moo moos or choosing an unflattering sheath style, select fabrics and silhouettes that give her a gorgeous shape. Jersey and stretch taffeta are perfect fabrics for the full-figured woman. They hug her body in all the right ways, allowing freedom of movement while creating the illusion of a leaner line.

Dresses with these complementing fabrics feature designs that go vertical rather than horizontal, working well to create the illusion of a slimmer figure. Ruching and draping, especially at the waistline, can create the illusion of a smaller waist. Empire waist silhouettes also work well to create a higher waistline and slimmer mid-section – this works well for most body types.


For those plus sized brides who are shopping for big day dress, what dress styles are hot right now?  How about bridesmaids’ dresses?

This season we’re seeing a lot of attention to detail when it comes to bridal gowns – from intricate embellishments and beautiful ruching to three-dimensional appliqués and interesting necklines. While the red carpet and runways are major inspirations for brides-to-be, I always remind women to factor in their body type when shopping for their wedding gown.

What I love most about David’s Bridal is that their bridal collection includes a broad range of flattering designs for all full-figured brides that highlight the latest fashion trends for a beautiful one-of-a-kind look. Take this beautiful Galina Collection gown exclusively for David’s Bridal – the A-line silhouette and side-draping slims her figure, so not only will the bride look flawless, but she’ll feel fabulous too (Style 9WG3045, $549)

Bridesmaids have a variety of fashion-forward designs to choose from for the fall. Many bridal designers are offering chic, contemporary designs mixed with timeless silhouettes – including short and long styles – to create trend-right and truly wear-again dresses. Jewel tone colors are all the rage right now, which look fabulous on most skin tones.

Where can a plus size curvy girl shop for her special occasion dress?

For the curvy, full-figured shopper, finding stores with a wide selection of options is key. Department stores and other special occasion dress retailers offer a wide variety of styles in a multitude of sizes, so plus size women have a nice assortment to choose from.

Many women may not know this, but David’s Bridal carries fashion-forward and affordable special occasion dresses in missy and plus-size sizes at their nationwide stores. Their offerings are perfect for women in search of a dress to wear for a night out on the town, a formal event or a date with their significant other. David’s Bridal also carries head-to-toe accessories to complete her look.


Because I’m such an accessory fanatic, what are the perfect pieces to finish off your big occasion look?

Every woman should own go-to, essential accessories that effortlessly complement her special occasion dress and can style her wear-again wardrobe pieces in a whole new way.

For a classic look, women should opt for simple rhinestone or crystal pieces or pearls – I love the classic, modern styling of this beautiful pearl and gold necklace. It easily vamps up a simple dress of any color. (Necklace style P09342-N01, $30)

Women in search of a more fashion-forward look will want to invest in statement jewelry and chic, colorful clutches with sparkling accents. Stack a few of these bold bracelets (style J4591B, $15) and store your essentials in this pleated clutch (ChaCha $24) to glam up any outfit.

No special occasion look is complete without the proper shoes. This season, embellished pumps and playful peep toe platforms are the perfect finishing touches. The Moonlight style ($49) is ideal for both the classic woman looking to add a little sparkle to her outfit, as well as the modern woman who loves to stylishly indulge in everything glamorous.

Whatever her personal style or budget, women should always consider their body type and what works best for them. This goes for accessories too – don’t over accessorize if it’s going to overwhelm a petite figure or draw attention to your not-so favorite asset. Know your body, shop smart and you’ll be set for every special occasion!

Have any of your own tips you want to share?

Photos courtesy of: David’s Bridal

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    The advice and reviews of this blog are solely the opinions and experiences of the writer, MJ, unless otherwise specified. Products being reviewed have been obtained via free samples from featured companies unless otherwise stated.
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