Ask Allie: Holiday Dresses to Flatter a Curvy Figure

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I need to find a dress for this fall. I'd like to wear it to my husband’s high school reunion, fifth anniversary dinner, church for Christmas and various holiday house parties. I just had a baby, so I'm carrying an extra 10 pounds and have a large bust. I'm normally a size D, but with nursing I'm much bigger. I want something that is special (ie. not a “work dress”), fairly modest, no sequins or lace, and makes me look banging even though my body still is in that alien post pregnancy state. Any suggestions?

Wardrobe Oxygen: Dresses to flatter curvy figures. Postpartum fashion for the holidaysAs soon as I read your post I thought, WRAP DRESS! When I was nursing, I adored wrap dresses because they were easy for feedings or pumping and there was enough fabric to cover where I needed covering, but a neckline to flatter the extra curves I was rocking. The wrap style with the side tie creates an hourglass shape, minimizes the midsection and flatters a curvy figure. While many think office wear when considering a wrap dress, such a style comes in a great variety of silhouettes and fabrics making them perfect for a reunion, date night, or holiday party.

Shop Wrap Dresses:


Sticking with the idea of a dress whittling the waist and creating an hourglass shape is the ruched dress. Extremely popular because of its figure-flattering properties, this style of dress is available in most any pricepoint and a variety of necklines and fabrics. Such a dress is usually of a stretchy fabric, making it comfortable and also accommodating to a large bust.

Shop Ruched Dresses:


Finally, any dress that has a pattern, seaming, or architectural details to create an hourglass shape will flatter a larger bust and minimize those extra ten pounds. Fit and flare dresses are festive and make a figure look great but are still modest enough for Christmas Eve service at church.

Shop Fit and Flare Dresses:


All dresses in the carousels are sequin- and lace-free and should work with a standard bra.  With a lot of these dresses, I highly recommend trying on before judging. What looks Corporate America on a slim young model may be bombshell on you; a dress that appears Mother of the Bride on the website may actually make you look “banging” and youthful. These sorts of dresses are made for curvy figures and it can’t really be seen on a non-curvy model. Because of this, all the dresses I have featured are from retailers who have free shipping and simple return processes.

For those who have a similar issue and wish to possibly use a “work dress;” there’s often ways to dress it up to look cocktail appropriate.

  • If the dress has a defined waist or self belt, replace it with a sparkly version
  • Add a shrug; many retailers have them sequined or in another formal fabric that will glam up your look
  • Shoes can transform a dress; a pair in a metallic or with crystals, one that is delicate (D’Orsay, slim heel, slim straps), or of a formal fabric (silk, velvet, satin) can drastically change the effect of a frock
  • A switch of accessories can do wonders; instead of a knot cinch a wrap dress with a sparkly brooch or wear a crystal statement necklace or collar. I have two stretchy rhinestone cuff bracelets I often wear over the wrists of a long-sleeve ponte dress to create a more festive look
  • Hair and makeup can make big impact; it’s amazing what a smoky eye and messy updo or a glossy red lip and retro waves can do to dress up an outfit

I hope this gives you some ideas and you find a dress perfect for the season!

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. So many useful ideas! I need to look for a cocktail dress for my 15 year wedding anniversary do. I’m supposed to be dieting, but will lots of other stressful stuff going on, I doubt I’m going to manage to lose much weight so I’ll be taking your ideas to the shops with me and hoping to find something that makes me look lovely.

  2. I love the look of fit and flare dresses, but I have never found one that works for me. If it fits my waist and shoulders, its too tight through the bust. Then my boobs get mushed and flatted so much I look like I’m all boobs. And sizing up looks sloppy and ill-fitting. Maybe I need to buy the bigger dress and take in the waist and shoulders? I think wrap dresses are a better option when you’re busty.

  3. I love a fit and flare or a wrap dress and find them very figure flattering on most. Also, I know you suggest trying dresses on before buying but I can’t say enough about the deals you can get on myhabit.com for special occasion dresses, sparkly or not. If I’m not going to wear it more than a couple of times then I love that I can get a dress for under $50!

  4. A plus with ruched dresses is you don’t have to wear a belt with them. I think you make an excellent point in noting that at lot of them look better on than they do on a hanger, so don’t dismiss them without trying them on.

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