Fashion Friday: Dresses (How to fit an Apple)

Better late than never, right?

Well, whaddya know, we have a request!

I’m not sure I’m the best person to offer advice on this issue, seeing as how I generally hate the way I look in dresses, and I’m sort of apple shape. At least, when I gain weight, I tend to gain it around my mid-section, so I consider myself an apple, but when I’m at my ideal weight I’m more of a rectangle.

Apples . . . rectangles . . . such lovely visual images I’m creating here today.

ANY-WHO. I think an apple shape may be the hardest shape to look good in a dress. Which is why you will almost always see me in jeans or a skirt and a top. But this post isn’t supposed to be about me . . . ahem.

Personally, and this may not be true for all apple bodies, but I don’t care for the flowy, jersey dresses that people SAY are flattering. I prefer structured dresses. My favorite dress is a sheath style.


If it fits well, a sheath lends structure and gives the illusion of a waist — a waist that most of us apples just. don’t. have.

I also think it helps an apple shape to have a V-neck or at least an open neckline. You don’t want it too deep, as most apples tend to be busty, but an open neckline helps to elongate the neck and gives a longer, leaner appearance. It can also de-emphasize the width of the shoulders. Add a statement necklace or some super special earrings to draw the eye up and away from the midsection, and you’re all set.

I also think it’s nice when the structured, sheath-style dress has a seamed waist that sets just a tad higher than your natural waistline, and inverted pleats don’t hurt. I tried on a dress last night that fit all of these criteria. Unfortunately it cost enough to feed my family for a week.

I actually tried it on in this fabric but the above photo shows the details of the dress better.

See how it has structure without being clingy or too fitted, the v-neckline elongates the neck and slims the shoulders, and the inverted pleats at the waist hide any extra pudding you don’t want to show. It’s a little bit too short for my taste, but otherwise, I think it’s a great style for an apple shaped figure. (And it might help my illustration if the model wasn’t a size 00, but what can ya do?)

Okay, here’s another similar dress, and this model is a bit more realistic.

Layering is always helpful.

When I’m feeling particularly thick around the middle, I throw on a loose cardigan and it helps camouflage the tummy. In the summer, a chiffon blouse over a lightweight tank top is a great look.

Layers also add interest. So it works well for you that it’s still cold in your neck of the woods!

Finally, chunky heels help balance out the thicker upper body.

Wedges are awesome. Platforms rule. Pointy toes elongate the leg. And you’re in luck. Those are the styles that are “in” this year.

Oh and also. Never, EVER, EVER wear shoulder pads. Pinky swear.

Aaaaand, one more thing. Make sure, you know, the girls are where they are supposed to be. Proper undergarments are a MUST to looking your best and camouflaging figure flaws. Or, shall we say, figure challenges . . . flaws probably isn’t P.C. anymore, is it?

Suffice it to say, if you haven’t had a professional bra fitting in a while, you may want to invest the time and money. It will be well worth it.

Anybody else have some helpful tips to add?

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12 Responses

  1. Thanks JL! 🙂 I don’t like me in a dress much either, which is what I was afraid of when I was looking around. And that “realistic” model didn’t sell me. Gulp.

    I like the chunky heel idea tho!

    I, too, highly encourage a bra fitting session. I had one at Nordstrom (which I now find to be the magical place for all things good) over Christmas in Colorado. They are so professional and they don’t make you feel self-conscious about the fact you standing half naked in front of them. It was a delightful experience, to be honest.

  2. Ok I’m with ya! I love the pattern on that Lilly Pulitzer Kiki dress you have linked. Oh my gosh do I. But uhmmm yeah. A week’s worth of groceries is exactly it. ARG.

    Finding good / solid / well cut material is spendy I have noticed (more and more the older I have gotten). Good heavens. Sigh. Well then.

  3. Thank you for the tips! I think I’m an apple, but I’m not really sure. Still, these are some great tips for dressing the not-so-ideal body. Sometimes my pouchy stomach tries to make sure I wear nothing beautiful, but you’ve given me hope that it is still possible!

    The Art of Being You

  4. I think I’m more of a pear, however, I really liked the tips. I’d say the first dress was my favorite. My girls are almost nonexistent, and that type of style would work really well with showing off my arms and shoulders, and suggesting cleavage.

    I also liked the structured sheath high-waist dress. Another nice style for a pear, I would think, plus I like the v-neck.

  5. Oh I can totally relate to this topic as I am an apple. Buying a dress is stressful. I am at least two sizes bigger on the top than the bottom so by the time you fit me through the back and bust you have acres of loose material on the bottom. Unfortunately, most of the time I look terrible. I suppose buying an outfit in two pieces would be the better option because you can buy them in two differenct sizes but sometimes you want to wear a pretty dress. My son is getting married in the fall and I know I want to look good but I am getting stressed just thinking about going shopping for an outfit to suit my shape. Woe is me. Valerie

  6. Dresses can actually be more comfortable and very flattering when you carry your weight around the middle. Many times they are cut more generous than a top. The key is the RIGHT one. A wrap dress can take inches off visually. The right empire waist that doesn’t poof out is also a great choice and many times that means a “band” directly under the bust. As Jo-Lynne said–make sure you have a bra that LIFTS or an empire waist style is all in vain. Many times women’s smallest measurement is directly under the bust-show it off. Don’t be afraid of a shaper! They have come a long way in comfort. Even the tank style will do wonders to smooth the middle.
    Any names given to body types do nothing to help our confidence. It’s all about balancing the shoulders, hips and bringing in the waist. If your hip measurement is larger than the shoulders, add volume with styles that have details which balance the bottom and vica versa if your shoulders/bust are larger than your hips. Jewelry is a great diversion. Don’t forget that a good alteration specialist can be a lifesaver!

    1. See, and I have NO luck with the wrap style. None. Everyone always advises them for my body shape and I don’t look good in them at all. Perhaps I should bring you shopping with me sometime! 🙂

    2. Funny, JL, I was just going to ask Karen for some specific links. I do think the Empire dress is a possibility – I have a couple Athleta ones that are but they are more “swim” type (tie at the neck and are super low cut, gulp), not necessarily church type (which is where I am looking to wear said dress – my son is confirmed in May).

      1. Again, empire doesn’t usually do me any favors b/c I’m so busty. But I do agree about calling attention to that area right below the chest where we are usually thinnest. I like dresses that are fitted under there and the waist sits just higher than the natural waist, but I can’t usually do an empire.

        1. Sigh. If only… but alas, I should not complain, as the lady at Nordstrom believes me to be a bustier woman than I could have ever believed, so there’s that. (of course now my bra takes up a suitcase of its own, holy moses).

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