Back to Basics: The Black Dress

A black dress is a super versatile wardrobes staple but only if you take your time and buy right. If you aren’t a frequent dress wearer, the inclination is to venture into the more formal realm (think suit dress). A great black dress can do a whole lot more than take you to a meeting, funeral or wedding. If you shop around and find one in versatile enough in fabric and cut, you can get a lot more wear out of your little black dress. The main things you should look for when trying to find a dress that will take you from the boardroom to brunch are: cut, drape and the quality of the fabric.

When shopping, one easy tip to know if the fabric of a dress is going to go the distance before you take it out of the store is to scrunch up the fabric in your hand for a few seconds and then let go. If the fabric is wrinkled, the dress will be a hot mess by the time 11 am rolls around. If the fabric falls smoothly back into place, it's worth a trip to the dressing room.

The cut of the dress should work for you by creating the best silhouette for your body. Here are a few ways to get the most flattering dress for your shape:

1.) Be sure the neckline is not too high or too low. A scoop neck flatters almost every face and body shape. If you are well endowed in the chest region, just make sure the neckline is not too low to ensure it is work appropriate.

Above: BR Monogram Collection Cowl Neck Dress, $130
2.) If you are curvy, look for a dress that emphasizes the smallest part of your waist which may be higher than you'd expect. Don’t look for the same waistline you would when shopping for a jean when you're looking for a dress. Always look for a seam or a line that hits higher on your ribcage (think 1-3 fingers below the bottom of your bust) and skims the body from there. If you have a large chest, a very strong empire cut, hitting right below your bust and flows downward, is going to add attention to this area so if you are looking to downplay your assets be sure the waist of your dress isn't cut too close to the area around (or near) the underwire of your bra. The wrap dress below gives you an idea of where the waist of a dress should fall to look the most flattering.

Above: Banana Republic, Gema Wrap Dress, $98
3) Depending on your shape, the skirt of your dress should fall into one of three categories: pencil, A line or straight. A pencil skirt on a dress typically hits at or right below the kneecap and hugs the hips and legs all the way down. It's a very body conscious fit so if you carry weight in the hips and thighs this might not be the best shape for you. However, if you carry your weight in other areas, this style is a great option for elongating the lower body. To get the most out of this shape wear it with a heel (even a small, kitten heel).

Above: Dolce & Gabbana, Aubergine Shift Dress, $480 (not available in black)
4) An A line dress is the best option for all body types. This is my favorite type of dress (ok, it might be a tie with the wrap dress) because it truly is easy to adapt to all types of occasions from work to the weekend. An A line dress is fitted at the waist and gradually flares out. It's best to stick with a dress that falls above the knee (don't go shorter than one inch above the knee), at the knee or right below the knee to be sure the dress  flatters your legs.

Above: Calvin Klein, Solid belted fit + Flare dress, $139.50

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