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4 Questionable Dress Shapes for a Full Bust

1. Drop Waist

[caption id="attachment_232" align="aligncenter" width="106" caption="Jenny Han, Church St. Trading Co. (Great Barrington, MA - 2006), size M"][/caption]
I love anything that looks vaguely "Jazz Age" so drop waist dresses taunt me. When this cut is paired with fancy fabric or girly pleats, I'm a goner.  I always suspected that this shape minimized my hips since it cuts across their widest section then dramatically flares out. For the full bust figure, there's minimal waist definition in this style and the cut picks up on two of the body's widest measurements (hips, bust). This particular design is saved by its sheer puff sleeves and "doll's costume collar" on top. Those features balance my Gs while the pleats help to streamline the rest of me. Would you wear a drop waist dress, either in the Zelda Fitzgerald vein or the mod 60s cut? Do you think this cut could flatter a woman with a full bust and more narrow hips?

2. Strapless

[caption id="attachment_233" align="aligncenter" width="108" caption="Topshop (2009), UK size 12"][/caption]
Okay, confession: I've never worn this dress. It's shameful since I've now owned it for 3 (!!!) years. When I bought it, I was ecstatic that I had found a strapless dress that worked for my chest. I thought it looked modern and fun, like something a glamorous urban dweller would wear on New Year's Eve. While creating this post, I discovered people hate this dress.  My boyfriend told me I looked like an extra in the movie Night at the Roxbury. Then, hours later, he told me he "really didn't like the jungle dress with the skeleton inside". Which was his way of referring to the plastic boning that holds up the top half! Last night, my friend asked me, "What's that material? Tiered rough-edged chiffon?!".

I'm not going to defend myself on this one, but I could devote an entire post to my love/hate relationship with strapless dresses and their close cousin, the one-shoulder dress. Every summer, I see TONS of girls rock strapless dresses. During the "party season" in January and December, they reemerge in gorgeous jewel tones. If you're busty, how do you make this style work for you? Or do you steer away from strapless cuts altogether?

3. Embellished Up Top

[caption id="attachment_234" align="aligncenter" width="115" caption="Zac Posen for Target (2010), size 7"][/caption]
Unlike the poor strapless above, people go bananas when they see this dress. There's something about this reaction that makes me pause. Obviously, the glimmer print and the thick fabric are impossible to ignore. I'm especially skeptical of the three-dimensional detail across my boobs though. Any undeniable embellishments near my chest -- sequins, a rosette, an applique -- make me hesitate. I think these details can quickly look like I've sprouted something off my breasts. The gigantic bow works above because it ends up being more distracting than maximizing. How do you grapple with design flourishes near your chest?

4. Empire Waist

[caption id="attachment_235" align="aligncenter" width="129" caption="American Eagle Outfitters (2007), size 8"][/caption]
In the first season of True Blood, on Sookie's date with Sam, she wears the green version of this dress. It cracked me up because I own that one too. I've gotten so much use out of both these dresses; they're starting to disintegrate. I love the light fabric, the ruched sleeves, and the floral print. I don't love the deep V-neck which inevitably reveals my bra. Since the bust area isn't cut with enough room for my Gs, the empire waist fans out prematurely. This changes the fit since the empire panel is sitting on the volume of my breasts, rather than my waist area where it's supposed to be. Just another reason I'm jealous of that gap-toothed, Vampire-loving, fairy-descended, telepathic waitress.

I think these 4 could be problematic for someone with a D+ cup, but I'm not ready to write them off completely. Clearly I own too many a lot of dresses, but I'm still curious about other styles. For instance, has anyone tried a maxi or halter dress in the summer? What about the body con look for nights out?


  1. I wear a 34H/HH and I wear empire dresses and tops all the time. Mostly because that's where I'm smallest, so I want to emphasize that! The trick is that they actually sit under the boobs and aren't too poofy around the tummy or you look pregnant. Also, wearing a cardigan over one that's a tad too full helps "pull it in". That's what works for me.

  2. What a good point! I just need to find one with a slightly lower empire band or ones with more space in the cup area. I totally agree on the cardigan subject. I couldn't live without them.

  3. I think that lots of women with a full bust, not too defined waist and narrow hips are short waisted, which is why I love a dropped waist. It balances out proportions, making the chest appear leaner and perkier by lengthening the torso. Obviously, that wouldn't work as well on an hourglass, as they usually have a more balanced torso/length ratio.
    I hate most empire waists tops and dresses. I never understood why this shape (I'm thinking baby-doll like rather than more structured top with a higher waist) is pushed so much on larger-chested women, since it makes boobs look bigger and it gives a pregnancy look. For some reason, it seems to be a staple of boob-friendly retailers, so I still own a few non floaty ones, which I wear with a cardigan.

  4. Exactly! I'm surprised when I see the empire waist/baby doll style on Biu Biu or Pepperberry. Although this style might suit women who have both a full bust and a wider torso. I also think this version of an empire waist can be hard to style; when I put a cardigan on something that has a lot of volume I feel like I look like a deflated balloon. For me, avoiding "floaty" fabrics is really key too. I definitely need more structured or thicker fabrics.

    I love your comment about perkiness & drop waist dresses. I think that may be why if I've liked them so much. I have a relatively short torso so I like the lengthening qualities, even if they're not the most flattering on my hips. I also think the ones that are more evocative of the twenties are more flattering than the ones that are more mod. This is one arena where the float-er fabrics tend to skim over my bigger measurements whereas boxier cuts just look lumpy.

  5. I'm a 28ff and my wedding dress is an empire waist. I was worried that I'd made a huge mistake because 99% of the time that cut is disaster on me, but I decided the following design details make this dress an exception:
    1. All of my boobs actually fit inside the bodice. (Because it's a bit too big and the underbust will need to be taken in a few inches)
    2. The skirt shape is slim and columnar, NOT full and poofy
    3. V-neckline with just enough draping
    I think they combine to create a very lean, elegant profile. But, it wouldn't have worked off the rack without alterations and I have to be very, very picky about the bra I wear (thank god, it is NOT a strapless dress).

    I also have two dresses that are dropped-waist that are inexplicably flattering. Again, a few things that make them work when most dresses like this don't:

    1. Not too tight--the boobs are completely contained--but also, the shoulder seams of the dresses are right at my actual shoulders, not drooping over.
    2. The waists are only dropped to my hips
    3. The skirts are just the right length to balance everything out

    So, in my opinion, you CAN make questionable dress shapes work, but it is very, very tricky, because everything has to be just so.


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