How to Find the Perfect Formal Dress for Your Body Type

Nazy Rafaeil

By Nazy Rafaeil, Senior Content Writer.

Blue Formal dress:

No matter what type of black-tie or evening event, you need the perfect gown that best reflects you. This means a flattering fit for your body type and a dress that shows off your figure in the best way.

When buying a formal dress, you’ll need to consider many elements. We’re here to share some of the best buying tips. If you have more questions, feel free to email our style team (
You’ll need to look at the type of formal event you’ll be attending. You’ll also want to ensure your dress is the right color and flattering for your body type.
Finding formal attire that balances your body’s natural shape is the key to a perfect dress. There are many body types, From hourglass to pear and apple shapes and everything in between.

Blue prom dress

Figuring out which body shape you are in will help you in your quest to find the right formal look. Once you understand your shape well, you can dress accordingly.

Today, we will be discussing the most common body types. We will explore which clothing styles are most flattering for each body type. What to steer clear of, and how to choose for your special event.

Choosing a Formal Dress For Your Body Shape:

What Body Type Am I?

Look at your natural shape; what shape is your silhouette (the outline of your body)? If you aren’t sure of your body type, measure yourself across the shoulders, bust, hips, and waist. You’ll start to see where your body inclines and where you are widest.

This is going to help you determine which shape you are. Please read over the most common types below and our tips for formal dressing for each shape to look its best. Remember, it doesn’t matter what size or shape you are. There’s a perfect black tie dress that will flatter you and make you feel beautiful!

So follow these steps:

  • Take measurements: Use a measuring tape to measure your bust, waist, and hip circumference. Note down these measurements for reference. Also, refer to our body calculator and measurement video. 
  • Compare proportions: Look at your shoulders, waist, and hips. Determine which area is wider or narrower in comparison to the others.

Now that you understand different body types, you can identify if you have an hourglass shape.

Hourglass: If your bust and hips are wider than your waist, you will likely have an hourglass figure.
Pear shape: If your hips are wider than your bust and you have a well-defined waist, you probably have a pear-shaped body.
Apple shape: If your bust is wider than your hips, and you carry more weight around your midsection, you may have an apple-shaped body.
Rectangle shape: If your bust, waist, and hips are all similar in width, with minimal waist definition, you may have a rectangular body shape.
Inverted triangle shape: If your shoulders and bust are wider than your hips, and your waist is less defined, you might have an inverted triangle shape.

body type


The Apple Body Type commonly has slim legs and thighs but a wider upper body frame and a rounder mid-section. To dress an apple body shape the best, look for pieces that create a defined waist around your midriff. A plunging neckline such as a sweetheart shape or deep v will look gorgeous. As well as an off-the-shoulder style.

If you’re attending a cocktail party, take the chance to show off your legs since you tend to have beautiful gams. For a formal event, opt for a dramatic strapless ball gown with plenty of skirt volume in an A-line structure to create more volume for your frame.

Peplum dresses are a great choice for individuals with an apple body shape. This dress style can accentuate your curves flatteringly while drawing attention away from the midsection. Here are a few reasons peplum dresses are good for apple body shapes. The peplum ruffles or flare starts from the waistline and flows over the stomach area, effectively camouflaging any concerns about the tummy.

peplum Evening Dres

long dress formal

Busty Blue Dress
evening dress

If you’ve been blessed with a fuller bust, by all means, flaunt it in a fitted look with a slim waistline! The Busty Body Type has a bigger chest but narrower hips. The key to striking balance is looking for pieces that highlight and support your bust and flatter your lower half.

Empire waist dresses:

Empire waist dresses have a high waistline below the bust, emphasizing the smallest part of the torso. This style helps balance the proportions. The Design accentuates the bust while providing a flowing and flattering fit below the waist. Look for dresses with a fitted bodice and a flowing skirt that skims over the midsection and hips.


Hourglass Body Type

Black prom dress
Black formal dress

The Hourglass Body Type is easily identifiable. You’ll have a narrow waist with a fuller bust and hips about equal width. This creates a symmetrical curve on your upper and mid-body. This is a very desirable shape in the fashion world!

You’ll look stunning in figure-hugging styles that show off this natural silhouette. Look for body-conscious jersey fabric formal dresses. This design with an open back is particularly attention-grabbing.

A high neckline will show off your hourglass figure even more, as will a dress in a block color. Avoid oversized styles that drown out your natural figure. Search for pieces that add curves and have a slim waistline. If desired, skirts can be bodycon or flared at the end, with a long train.

  • Wrap dresses:
Wrap dresses are flattering for hourglass figures. The adjustable wrap-style bodice cinches at the waist. It accentuates your narrowest point and highlights your curves. Look for wrap dresses that have a fitted or flared skirt.
  • Fitted dresses:
Bodycon dresses are form-fitting and designed to hug your curves. They are an excellent choice for hourglass shapes. They accentuate your bust, waist, and hips. Look for bodycon dresses with stretchy and supportive fabrics.
  • Mermaid or trumpet dresses:
Mermaid or trumpet dresses are fitted throughout the bodice and hips and flare at or below the knee. These dresses are particularly flattering for hourglass shapes. They showcase your curves and create an elegant and dramatic silhouette. They highlight your bust and hips while defining your waist.
  • Belted dresses:
Dresses with a belt are great for hourglass figures. They help to accentuate your waistline and create a more defined hourglass shape. Go for dresses with a wide belt that draws attention to your waist and complements your look.
  • Off-the-shoulder or sweetheart neckline:
Off-the-shoulder or sweetheart neckline dresses are perfect for hourglass shapes. They showcase your shoulders and highlight your bust. These necklines draw attention upward and balance your figure.
  • Sheath dresses:
Sheath dresses are fitted throughout the entire silhouette, following your body’s natural curves. They enhance your hourglass shape by showcasing your waistline. Look for sheath dresses with strategic darts and seams that flatter your figure.

Pear Body Type

Jovani evening dress

A Pear Body type has a narrower upper half (shoulders) with wider hips, thighs, and bottom. This body shape is easy to flatter. All you need is to place pretty details on top. Pick a flowing skirt for your lower half that gently skims over your bottom.

Pear shape body types look beautiful in a halterneck or plunging bodice dress. That includes a style with beadwork on your upper half to draw more attention upwards. We love this gorgeous chiffon gown option for pear-shaped women.

One thing to try to steer clear of is entirely body-hugging dresses. Always opt for evening gowns with a loose or flared skirt. An attention-grabbing bodice can form your focal point for your formal look, so choose a top that makes a statement. Choose an A-line style with a pretty off-the-shoulder bodice for a black-tie gala.

For Pear Shape, the goal is to draw attention upward and balance the proportions. The design highlights your upper body while minimizing the lower body. Here are some perfect dress options for a pear body shape:

  • A-line dresses:
A-line dresses are a fantastic choice for pear shapes as they flare from the waist. They create a balanced silhouette. The style draws attention away from the hips while highlighting the waistline. Look for dresses with a fitted bodice and a skirt that widens, creating a soft and flowing line.
  • Fit-and-flare dresses:
Fit-and-flare dresses are like A-line dresses but have a more defined waistline and a fuller skirt. The fitted bodice accentuates your waist. The flared skirt adds volume and movement. This style highlights your upper body and minimizes the lower body.
  • Empire waist dresses:
Empire waist dresses have a high waistline that sits below the bus. It focuses on the upper body and draws attention away from the lower body. The flowing skirt skims over the hips creating a graceful and flattering silhouette. Look for dresses with embellishments, patterns, or details on the bodice.
  • V-neckline dresses:
V-necklines are ideal for pear shapes as they elongate the neckline and draw attention toward the upper body. They help to balance the proportions by highlighting the bust and shoulders. Opt for a moderate V-neckline dress to maintain a tasteful and flattering look.
  • Off-the-shoulder or boat neck dresses:
Boat neck dresses are great for pear shapes as they draw attention to the upper body and shoulders. Creating a broader appearance balances out the hips and adds a touch of elegance to your look.


  • Dark or solid-colored bottoms with patterned tops:
Another great style for pear is dark or solid-colored bottoms. Solid Color skirts or pants match with patterned or embellished tops. This adds visual interest to the upper body while minimizing the lower body.

Petite Body Type

green formal dress perfect for wedding guest

A petite woman is generally considered shorter, typically under 5 feet 4 inches (162.5 cm) tall. However, being petite is not solely determined by height but also by overall body proportions. Petite women often have shorter arms, legs, and torso than individuals of average height.

Recommended Silhouettes for Petite Women:

A-line dresses:

Sheath dresses:

Empire waist dresses:

Midi dresses:

V-neckline dresses:

“Finding Elegance: A Petite Woman’s Quest for the Perfect Formal Evening Dress at Jovani Collection”

Excited yet anxious, Clara eagerly composed an email to Jovani’s design department. She described her petite stature, emphasizing her desire for a dress that would flatter her figure. She also wished for a long sleeves dress covering her arms and a high neckline that exuded elegance.  A few days later, Clara’s inbox chimed with a reply from Jovani’s design team. The email conveyed warmth and genuine interest in helping Clara find her dream dress. The designers kindly requested precise measurements, ensuring a customized fit highlighting her petite frame flawlessly. She excitedly sent another email with her measurements, awaiting the designers’ expert guidance.

Our Team asked about her favorite colors. They were looking for hues to complement her figure and enhance her beauty. She chose darker colors in Tea Length. Our Team suggested the off-the-shoulder fitted bodice Tea Length gray dress, style 08657. However, she had some concerns regarding the off-the-shoulder design. Clara hesitated similarly regarding the blue crepe midi dress with a sweetheart neckline, Jovani style 09059. After much deliberation and consideration, Clara chose the Jovani 09645 blue knee-length evening dress. This stunning dress featured elegant cap sleeves, perfectly meeting her desire for arm coverage while exuding grace and sophistication.

Slender Body Type

beaded prom dress
formal women’s dresses

The Slender Body Type, also known as Athletic or tall, has a rectangular frame and a square shoulder and midsection. Thankfully, adding a few gentle curves with the right evening dress is easy. Look for designs that subtly hug the hips and bust with a narrowed waist or flared tail.

Individuals with slender body types have numerous formal dress styles that can beautifully enhance their figure. If you’re interested in learning more, here are a few suggestions:

Mermaid or trumpet dresses:

A mermaid gown with Sweetheart necklines helps create sexy curves and femininity in your figure.

High-neck halter dresses:
Opt for dresses with a high neck and an open back, which enhance your height and slender frame while creating a sophisticated and alluring effect.

Slit dresses:
Dresses with high slits can beautifully showcase your long legs.

Look for jumpsuits with a defined waistline, wide-legged trousers, or flared bottoms to add volume and balance your proportions.


Plus Size Formal Dress Trends

Numerous flattering and stylish options are available for a plus-size woman attending a wedding as a guest. Here are some recommendations for plus-size formal dresses that would be suitable for a wedding, including a style suggestion from Jovani:

A-line dresses: A-line dresses are a great choice to flatter your curves. They cinch at the waist, providing an hourglass effect to your figure. Jovani’s A-Line Jacquard Dress with Illusion Neckline (style 23398) is an excellent option for plus-size women.

Empire waist dresses: Choose an empire waist dress with a cinched-in waistline that is lightly gathered and flows down to the floor in a smooth silhouette. This style will draw attention away from your midsection while creating a sleek and elegant look.

Maxi dresses: Maxi dresses with an empire waistline and a full skirt create the perfect silhouette for plus-size women. Pair them with sparkly statement jewelry or other accessories to add a touch of glamor and complete the look.

High-end brands such as Valentino often place a significant emphasis on their runway shows. They tend to have a narrower focus on plus-size designs. This may be driven by the perceived demand from their target clientele. Additionally, the prices of these brands often fall outside the budget for many.
Brands like Jovani bring elegance to the fashion world while offering more affordability. The dresses are available in various sizes and colors, catering to a diverse customer base. Furthermore, Jovani prioritizes keeping their dresses in stock.
Jovani’s commitment to inclusivity is demonstrated through its extensive range of sizes. There is something for every body type. Jovani’s fashionable designs are accessible to more people by offering affordable prices. This inclusivity promotes greater diversity within the fashion industry.


plus size prom dress


More Dress Options & Ideas

Don’t forget – pear, apple, hourglass, busty, and athletic are typical body types. If you don’t necessarily fit into one of these body categories, don’t panic! You can use your measurements to decide what aspects to highlight and hide.

Still don’t know what to wear to your formal event? You can make a start by narrowing down your choice by color or by the type of event you’ll be attending. You can also email our team for more assistance. You can stay updated with new trends by signing up for our regular email updates. Don’t miss out on our picks of the best gorgeous floral print designs. These are just right for Spring and fall events too!


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