Whether you're plus-sized or petite, finding the perfect dress that hugs your body in all the right places is difficult for any of us. If you have a large bust and smaller proportions on your bottom half, it can be frustrating to find the right fit in anything, but especially dresses.
When you have a larger bust, the number one goal of dress shopping is finding support, support, support. But it's easier said than found.
"I tend to face the problem of needing a larger cut on top despite being a smaller size on bottom. Luckily, more designers are starting to offer more versatile cuts and silhouettes that can fluctuate between sizing for those with different sized proportions," Los Angeles-based fashion stylist Audrey Brianne said.
To take some of the pain out of your search, Shop TODAY consulted style experts on what to look for (and avoid) in dresses for big busts. Plus, we rounded up several stunning picks based on their tips.
Features to look for in dresses for large busts
Shopping for clothing can feel discouraging when it takes a while to find the perfect fit, but Stitch Fix stylist Lauren Nelson offered some words of wisdom. "It’s important to remember that you should never force yourself to fit into clothes. Instead, seek out dresses that work for your body type and bust size," she said.
The neckline, style and material of a dress all matter while shopping for a big chest. But a few other details can also help ensure that you find the best fit.
Spandex: "Look for materials with stretch in them to ensure dresses fit properly over the bust area. I recommend opting for styles that feature a spandex blend, which will comfortably fit over the bust while also highlighting your natural waistline," Nelson suggested, adding that pliable fabrics allow more versatility and comfort.
Flowy fabrics: "Flowing fabrics styled on women with a bigger bust establish an optical balance to the chest," JLUXLABEL co-founder Teresa Printers told us.
Dresses that hug your waist: "If the attention is more on your waist, your silhouette will appear more balanced. If you have stronger legs or wide hips, it is also an advantage if the focus is on the waist," Christina Boyd, co-founder of JLUXLABEL, said.
Cinching under the bust: "To overcome challenges such as finding the perfect fit and flattering silhouette, consider where your natural waistline falls to create the ideal balance. Having the dress cinch underneath the bustline can help achieve your goal of visual symmetry," Nelson explained. If you're gravitating toward a boxier dress, she says adding a belt has the same effect.
Best dress styles for large busts
Sick of wasting precious time trying on way too many dresses and never finding the right fit? Here's a quick cheat sheet to help you hone in on the dress styles that work best for larger busts.
Halter dresses: "This style is particularly good for those with large chests. It pulls up and together without overexaggerating the body. There’s versatility with halter tops in how they’re fastened that can aid in containing and slimming," Brianne said.
Dresses with adjustable straps: "These help accommodate fluctuating fit. Avoid strapless and spaghetti straps as the former tends to read saggy and the latter can cause shoulder grooves and pesky indentations," Brianne said.
V-neck, scoop, cowl or square neckline dresses: "I suggest reaching for dresses with necklines that elongate the torso and upper chest. When styling my clients, I like to recommend these particular styles, which all look great on women with larger busts," Nelson said.
Wrap and A-line dresses: "These are standout silhouettes for busty clients, particularly for women who wear extended sizes," Nelson told us.
Asymmetric cuts and drapes: "They help you reveal as much or as little as you prefer," Boyd said.
Dresses for large busts
Available styles: 2 | Available sizes: X Small to XX Large
This draped crew neck dress is made of a breezy polyester and spandex blend and has an approachable midi length. The sheath dress also has darling cap sleeves and is available in two neutral colors: black and white. Plus, you can't beat the price!
Available styles: 2 | Available sizes: XXS to 5X
Pretty in polka dots! We're suckers for this cheerful print and love that the dress can be worn two ways: on or off the shoulder. While we're on the subject of shoulders, how cute are those ruffled short sleeves?! The elegant midi dress has a fitted waist, square neckline and a lined skirt, making it both pretty and practical.
Available styles: 2 | Available sizes: X Small to XX Large
This long-sleeve dress comes from the Draper James RSVP clothing line, which Allison Wise, an associate editor at Shop TODAY, is a fan of. She says, "RSVP for Draper James is my go-to brand for flowy dresses. As a petite/shorter woman with a larger bust, I love how the style is classy and feminine, without drawing attention directly to the bust."
Not only does this dress feature an expert-approved V-neck, but it also has a cinched waist and a flowing skirt that reaches the knees.
Available styles: 1 | Available sizes: XS to XL
Aside from its gorgeous pale-green base with pink and white flowers throughout, this dress has various features that make it an ideal pick. It has a halter-top structure that transforms into a chic open back, along with a lightweight polyester fabric construction that drapes softly toward the ground.
Available styles: 10 | Available sizes: XXS to XL
Francesca Cocchi Zabloudil, a senior editor of partnerships at Shop TODAY, recommends this maxi dress by Anthropologie. She says, "As someone who is petite with a bigger bust, I love the silhouette of this Anthropologie dress, which I own in dark green. It has a bunch of flattering features, such as a V-neck, cinched waist and tiered skirt. Plus, pockets!"
Although it's made with cotton (Brianne notes that 100 percent cotton can be too restrictive), its various expert-approved features make it a comfortable, chic closet addition.
Plus-size dresses for large busts
Available styles: 2 | Available sizes: 0X to 5X
Asymmetrical silhouettes can be particularly flattering for larger chests, and this eye-catching one-shoulder option from Nine West proves that. The one short puff sleeve dresses things up a bit, while the open shoulder reveals just enough skin to still be tasteful. In addition, the fit and flare silhouette and elastic waist are also major selling points.
Available styles: 2 | Available sizes: 0X to 4X
If you love prints, you'll adore this flirty frock that comes in two patterns. The ruffled short sleeves are simply stunning, for starters, and the fit and flare silhouette will hug your curves in all the right ways.
Available styles: 4 | Available sizes: XS to 3X
When you find a dress that fits just right, you naturally want to get plenty of use out of it. Luckily, this versatile maxi dress can be worn in multiple seasons with the right accessories. The halter neckline could stand out on its own with heels and hoop earrings, or you could tone things down a bit with a denim jacket and boots. Either way, you’ll feel comfy as can be in the stretchy fabric.
Available styles: 9 | Available sizes: XS to 6X
“A wrapped silhouette complements every bust size and body type by hugging your curves and flattering the waist,” Boyd explained. This V-neck wrap dress ties below the bust, and its draping skirt floats above the knees.
Available styles: 2 | Available sizes: 1X to 2X
Scoop neckline? Check. Cinched waist? Yep. This charming frock comes in 11 prints ranging from plaids to florals and animal prints. Its midi length makes it great for women of all ages and can work in a number of settings, meaning you'll want to clear out some closet space to add it to your collection.
More dress shopping tips for large busts
What to avoid
Silks, satins and 100 percent cotton. Brianne said silks and satins retain heat and 100 percent cotton can be too restrictive.
Be mindful of hardware
Even the hardware on a dress can make a difference in the way it fits. Brianne recommends choosing dresses with buttons instead of zippers because "buttons tend to be more forgiving [and] combat fit issues."
The right bra makes a world of difference
Flattering your figure doesn't stop at finding the perfect dress. "Like good primer is to makeup, a good bra is to fashion. Having support in all the right places can do wonders! Regardless of the type of dress you wear, the shape of the garment should hug your figure," Printers said.
"Remember to start with a solid foundation by wearing a supportive, properly-sized bra. Having the right bra will make it easier to discover the perfectly fitted dress you’re in search of and allow you to go out into the world confidently," Nelson echoed.
If you're shopping in store, try it on!
Dragging a whole bunch of garments into the dressing room can be a bit of a pain but trying things on in person can pay off. "Don’t avoid styles simply because of hanger appeal (mainly lack thereof). Always try on each product unit to gauge fit. Ask questions of the sales teams. All employees should be well versed and full of information," Brianne said.
How we chose
While choosing these dresses, we took stylist advice into consideration and made selections based off their input. Many dresses feature certain necklines, cinched designs, wraps and more. We also considered fabric types along with editor favorites.
Meet the style experts
- Audrey Brianne is a wardrobe stylist based out of Los Angeles. She has worked with companies such as Tommy Hilfiger, Betsey Johnson and People's Revolution.
- Lauren Nelson is a styling supervisor for Stitch Fix, an online personal styling service.
- Teresa Printers and Christina Boyd are the founders of JLUXLABEL, a women's clothing brand based on the belief that "high fashion should be attainable for every woman," according to their website.