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Work with body type when choosing a gown

By Bonnie Coblentz

MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A trip to the dressing room with an armload of the same size clothes proves that size is not the most important factor when choosing an outfit.

The style and cut of any item of clothing determines how well it looks on a person. Wedding dresses are no exception, and it takes a careful shopper to choose the most flattering style for this highly photographed day.

Phyllis Miller, an associate professor of apparel, textiles and merchandising in Mississippi State University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, encouraged brides-to-be to work with their body type to find the most flattering dress.

"Put on a dress you like and stand in front of a mirror and close your eyes," Miller said. "Open your eyes quickly and see where they go. If your eyes go somewhere you don't want them to go, choose another dress."

With wedding dresses, the location of ornate features and details has a lot to do with how the dress looks on the woman. Miller suggested some general guidelines when trying to find the best fit and style.

  • For the bride who wants to minimize a large bust, opt for very few details on the bodice and lots of details on the hemline and skirt. This focuses the eye downward.
  • For the bride who wants to minimize her hips, use more details on the bodice. Large sleeves also give a visually balanced look.
  • For the bride who wishes her bust to appear larger, choose a dress with details on the bodice that draw attention to this area.
  • A bride wishing to disguise her stomach might consider an empire style. This dress has no waistline, not allowing the eye to focus attention on that problem area. Princess styles are actually flattering for most body types. These have a single, slenderizing panel down the front and back of the dress.
  • A bride with a short neck can choose a low-cut or V-neck dress to visually extend the length of the neck.
  • Alternately, a bride who wants to minimize a long neck will find a higher neckline like a Sabrina, bateau or jewel neckline more flattering.
  • For the bride who wants to go strapless, Miller recommended the heart-shaped sweetheart neckline instead of one that runs straight across the chest.
  • A bride with heavy arms should avoid little tap sleeves or puffed sleeves. Long, flowing or lace sleeves look best on this body type.
  • A bride wishing to minimize her shoulders should avoid big, puffy, leg of mutton sleeves.

Be sure that the color choice of the dress flatters skin tones. Miller said choosing the wrong color can make every facial blemish become glaringly obvious and give the person an unhealthy look. Off-whites and eggshell colors are most flattering on warm skin tones, while cool, bright whites look best on cool skin tones.


Released: Jan. 13, 2005
Contact: Dr. Phyllis Miller, (662) 325-8783

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