Choosing a cocktail dress, when you have an hourglass body shape, can be really frustrating.
More often than not, dresses that fit your waist are too tight across the bust. And dresses' that fit your bust, are typically too big around your waist, leaving you looking and feeling larger and less curvy that you are.
So you’re left with two choices - you either wear a dress that squashes your bust and is uncomfortable, or you go for a dress that is large enough to accommodate your boobs, but that's shapeless everywhere else.
Sound familiar? If it does, you are in the right place.
I’m a personal stylist (you can find out more about me here), and over the past 18 years, I have helped hundreds of hourglass women find clothes they love wearing, and build and develop a capsule wardrobe that is easy to use and fun to wear.
I am shopping for clients every week, so I know exactly which party dresses will work best for your hourglass shape, and I know exactly where to shop for the best dresses for your shape.
So, if you’re done with compromising on fit and look, and want to find a cocktail dress that looks flattering and sexy without looking like a tent, I’ve got you!
This post shares my top, tried and tested tips to help you choose the perfect dresses for your hourglass shape, as well as my top party dress picks for an hourglass shape this year (2023), so you can accept that invite, and enjoy your cocktail parties confident that you look fantastic!
Want a quick answer?
These are 3 best party dresses for an hourglass shape in 2023
This beautiful dress is the perfect shape for an hourglass body shape. The low neckline will fit and flatter a bust and the cinched in waist will define your waistline, while the draping folds of fabric contour your curves beautifully.
trumpet midi dress
A trumped dress, or mermaid dress as they are sometimes called, is a fantastic option for an hourglass shape. The fitted fluted shape hugs and enhances your contours, to highlight your feminine curves.
draped silk midi dress
LILYSILK X NATASHA
Cocktail dresses that have ruching and draping to cinch in the waist, are a firm favorite of mine for my hourglass clients. This dress is perfect - it has a low, wrap neckline that will fit and flatter your bust, and it's fitted shape will enhance your curves.
what is an houglass shape?
The tips and info I’m sharing in this post, are specifically for women who have an hourglass shape, so, before you scroll on down it’s a good idea to make sure that you do have an hourglass shape.
Because if you don’t, then my tips won’t work for you…and you’ll continue to feel confused about what works for you. So, if you’re not 100% sure that you have an hourglass shape, read through these common hourglass characteristics to see if you identify with any of them.
An hourglass body shape is one of the 4 primary body shapes (the 3 other body shapes being apple shape, pear shape, and column shape).
The hourglass body shape is one of the most balanced, and in-proportion shapes, and it's core characteristics are:
these are the core charecteristics of an hourglass body-shape
Now, some of those characteristics are shared by the other body shapes (for example, an apple shape or pear shape), so there’s a chance that you recognize some, but not all of those characteristics. Maybe you have wider hips or a small bust?
If that’s you, don’t worry, it’s totally normal. In fact, it’s more normal than not.
The 4 body-shape categories are so elementary that few women slot neatly into just one body-shape category.
The most likely scenario is that your body shape is a combination of two body shapes - a primary and a secondary shape; the primary shape being the one that your shape aligns with the most, and the secondary being the shape that your body shape overlaps with a little.
While it’s useful (and reassuring) to have this information, the main thing is having a good understanding of your unique shape and its unique characteristics.
Knowing what primary body shape your own shape aligns with is a great place to start, it gives you an area to focus your research on, and as you experiment, and become more familiar with your shape and the clothing styles that fit you best; how you define your body shape will become less important, and you’ll naturally gravitate towards what works for you and your personal style.
If you would like to get a better understanding of your own shape, I have some resources below that will help you.
4 resources that will help you get a better understanding of your body-shape
12 tips for choosing formal dresses when you have an hourglass shape
These are my tips for what you might want to look for and what you might want to avoid, when choosing party dresses for your shape.
These are the style tips and tricks I’ve learned while styling my hourglass clients, and are here to serve as a guide (not hard and fast rules to live by!) to help you understand why it is that certain dresses don’t look right on you, and what you might to do solve that so you can find the right style dresses for you.
Eventually, you will create your own list of do’s and don'ts; but in the meantime, here are some of mine:
what to look for when choosing cocktail dresses for an hourglass shape
Check you are wearing the correct bra size
First things, first, make sure you are wearing a good-fitting bra! Your underwear forms the foundation for your outfits, it also offers you support and shaping.
Get it right, and you'll stand a much better chance of finding a dress that fits you well. Get it wrong, however, and dresses will continue to fit you strangely and be uncomfortable.
If you need some guidance understanding if you are wearing the correct bra size, this blog post shares 6 signs that signal you are wearing the wrong bra size, and some tips to help you identify the correct size.
look for dresses that have structure and shape to hug your curves
Choose dresses that have structure and shape if you have an hourglass shape. This can be in the form of a fitted bodice, or, simply a fitted band across the waist - any sort of structure or shaping will enhance your shape and showcase your best features. Look for design elements that will define your waistline.
choose dresses that highlight your defined waist
Cocktail dresses that have banding, belts, or ties around the waist, will cinch you in and help prevent a dress from swamping your frame and hiding your curves.
Opt for low necklines that fit and flatter your large bust
Choose dresses that have a low neckline if you want to minimize your large bust a little. A v-neckline, a plunging neckline, a scoop neck, a low squared neck and sweetheart necklines are all fantastic at making a large bust look a little smaller - they do this by drawing the eye in, and down; narrowing the bust and drawing attention to the waistline. They will also fit your bust so much better than a high neckline!
choose fitted styles
Opt for body-hugging dresses, that hug your natural curves if you have an hourglass shape.
opt for fabrics that have a little stretch
Fabrics that have a little stretch will be the best option as these will allow you extra room across the bust, without losing shape around your waist.
Look for dress styles that have some shape and curve to them. These have more chance of fitting your curves than column-shaped dresses that are straight up and down. Choose fabrics that have a little stretch in them to allow for your curves.
what to avoid when choosing party dresses for anhourglass shape
Avoid a high neckline dress
You might want to avoid a high neckline if you have an hourglass shape. High necklines have a tendency to make a large bust look even larger, so if this is something you want to avoid - opt for a low neckline instead. High necklines will also be the most difficult style to find in a good fit as they are typically a tight fit across the bust, and sometimes pull and stretch
avoid straight fit dresses
Straight-fitting dresses will likely hide your waist if you have an hourglass shape, so if you want to showcase your curves, avoid shapeless column dresses.
shapeless dresses will make you look shapeless
Shapeless, voluminous dresses can add bulk and width to an hourglass shape, so if you tend to feel shapeless in dresses, this is a style to avoid.
ruffles, pleating and bows on the torso
Avoid design elements, such as ruffles, pleating, and bows, across the bust area as these will add bulk that can make your bust look larger, and your frame unbalanced.
keep an eye on the sleeve length
Avoid wearing a dress with sleeves that end in line with your bust as this will extend your bust line, making your bust look larger. This is exaggerated if the sleeve is a puff sleeve! A better sleeve length is one that sits either above or below your bust.
stiff, heavy fabrics add bulk and weight
Dresses in stiff heavy weight farics can be difficult to find in a good fit, and they also add bulk and weight to an hourglass frame, that hides your curves.
the 10 best dress styles for an houglass shaped body in 2024
belted dresses look great on an hourglass shape
Belted dresses are one of my favorite style dresses for hourglass figures. One of the main problem areas for an hourglass frame is that gorgeous defined waist that can easily be hidden in a dress. By opting for a belted dress, you have the option to cinch your dress in at the waist, to highlight your curves.
peplum dresses are a great option for an hourglass shape
Peplum dresses are a great option for you if you want to really enhance your waist. A peplum is “a flared ruffle sewn into the waistline of a blouse, skirt, jacket, or dress " - Masterclass.com and is a fantastic way to add extra definition to your already well defined waist.
Mermaid and trumpet dresses work well for an hourglass shape
Mermaid dresses, or trumpet dresses as they are sometimes known. These dress styles hug your lower half and have a gentle flare that kicks out at the hem to really enhance your natural curves and showcase your feminine shape.
choose bodycon dresses if you have an hourglass shape
Bodycon dresses or form-fitting dresses are great options, they will contour your curves beautifully without adding bulk.
slip dresses look great on an hourglass shape
Slip dresses (also known as a bias cut dress), contour your curves and enhance your shape. Look for styles that have a low neckline to fit and flatter your bust, and if you need to wear a good supportive bra with strap's, choose a style with a wide strap.
fit and flare dresses are a good option for an hourglass shape
Fit and flare dresses do exactly what they say they do - they fit your top half, and flare out below the waist. They have a defined waistline and an a-line skirt that hugs your waist and skims your hips.
wrap dresses are one of the best options for an hourglass shape
Wrap dresses are a great choice for an hourglass shape. They can be tied to fit your gorgeous curves well, the waist that wraps and ties at the side defines your waist, and the v-neckline breaks up the line across your bust and draws the eye down to your small waist. They’re my favorite style of dress for hourglass women!
opt for an a-line dresses if you are an hourglass shape
A line dresses are fitted across the bust, and flare out either from just below the bust or from the waist, to enhance your defined waist and skim your hips. They are a great dress choice for you id you have an hourglass shape and are carrying a little weight on your hips and thighs.
strapless dresses can work well on hourglass shapes
Strapless dresses are great on you as they narrow the bust line a little and really highlight your small waist, but if you are going to wear an off-shoulder dress, you will need a really good, supportive strapless bra. This is the one I recommend!
Try a halterneck dress if you are hourglass shaped
Halterneck dress can be an elegant look for an hourglass. They do a great job of highlighting the area just below the bust, which i typically the narrowest point on any woman, and low neckline breaks up the line across the bust, and draws the eye to your waistline.
look for draped or structured dresses
Dresses that have draping and structure around the waist will do a fantastic job of cinching you in at your waist to highlight your curves. A word of caution though, avoid draping that is bulky and voluminous around the bust area - it wants to create shape, rather than add weight.
these are the 20 best cocktail dresses for an hourglass shape in 2024
I’ve been a personal stylist for 18 years, and I've sourced coats and jackets for hundreds of hourglass women, and these picks are some of my favorites this year:
here are some other questions you might have about wearing dresses as an hourglass shape
What kind of dress looks best on an hourglass figure?
Look for fitted dresses that have a low neckline ( v-necklines or plunging necklines will be the best) and a little stretch. These will not only fit you the best, but they will showcase your gorgeous curves. And go for which ever length you fancy! A mini dress, midi dress or maxi length will be fantastic on you.
What style cocktail dress is best for hourglass figure?
There are lots of cocktail dress options for an hourglass shape, but my favorite styles are mermaid or trumpet style dresses, that hug and enhance your feminine curves.
Why is it so hard to dress an hourglass figure?
Hourglass shapes have a large bust and a well defined waist, and this combination makes it difficult for an hourglass shape to find clothes that fit well, especially tops and dresses.
The biggest difficulty is finding tops that have enough room to fit across the bust, but that are narrow enough at the waist that they don’t hide their curves. Invariably, hourglass shape women end up wearing a size a larger than they should do on their top half, to accommodate for their large bust.
What outfits accentuate hourglass figure?
Figure hugging outfits will accentuate an hourglass figure, as will outfits that cinch in the waist. Wrap dresses, high rise jeans and low neckline fitted tops are all fantastic options.
If you would like more tips for choosing jeans for your hourglass shape, this post shares my top tips to choosing jeans that fit and accentuate an hourglass figure, and shares my top picks for the year.
I've also created a digital guide that shows you exactly what the most and least flattering clothes are for an hourglass body shape. You can purchase that here for only $65
Can an hourglass wear a shift dress?
Shift can be difficult to wear if you have an hourglass shape because the neckline is typically high, which makes it difficult to get a goot fit at the bust. Having said that, if you can find a shift dress with a low neckline then it might work.
Can hourglass wear maxi dress?
Yes, absolutely! An hourglass shape can wear any length dress from mini to maxi - it’s just down to personal preference. Steer clear of stiff, heavy fabrics that add bulk which may drown you, choose a neckline that fits and flatters your bust, and opt for a style that defines your waist.
want to know exactly which clothes work best dress for your body shape?
For only $65, my easy to use guide will show you exactly which clothes work best for your body-shape, so you can (finally!) enjoy getting dressed!
I know tht finding a cocktail dress to fit and look good on you can be a real struggle when you’re an hourglass shape, but it doesn't’ have to be. The tips I’ve shared in this post should go some way towards helping you find your perfect dress - but if that’s a dress that doesn't hug every curve, and doesn’t fit your bust perfectly, who cares…as long as you love it and feel amazing.
Use my tips as a guide. Experiment a little. Try some cocktail dress styles that you wouldn’t usually consider, and I know you’ll get there. And if not, I’m right here to help you.
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