Whether you are sewing or buying dresses, this guide to 41 types of dresses with pictures will help you determine what styles will suit your body type best and why.
It can be overwhelming shopping for new dresses, and the same goes for sewing patterns. If you buy a style that doesn’t suit your body shape, you may feel uncomfortable and not your best.
When you sew handmade clothing, it’s easy to jump into a sewing pattern without thinking about the style. Seeing others stitching the same design online can be exciting, so you want to give it a go, too, don’t get me wrong, this is amazing, but you may get to the end and hate the dress. Then you have wasted your time and money making it.
The best place to start is by learning about all the different types of dress styles out there and how they fit the body. This guide will help you decide which dresses will suit you better than others. You can eliminate sewing or buying a dress you won’t like.
Below are 41 common types of dresses with everything you need to know about the style, along with shoppable images and sewing pattern suggestions.
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An A-line dress is a simple and popular silhouette that hit the fashion scene in 1955, thanks to Christian Dior. The dress’s skirt is fitted at the waist and then widens towards the hemline in the shape of a triangle or capital A, hence the name. However, the waist is not always fitted, some A-line dresses will begin flaring out from the neckline to a wider hem.
Suitable for: This dress type is ideal for most body shapes. It is a good fit for women who are triangular or pear-shaped, with a smaller bust and larger hips. If you have a bigger bust and smaller hips, this style may not be the best fit for you.
Sewing pattern match: Vogue V9100
Apron dresses are a simplistic style which has been inspired by workwear aprons that are worn in kitchens or studios. A chic version of this working apron, the apron dress was evolved, a relaxed fitting dress which often includes two front pockets on the skirt. Many like to layer apron dresses over billowing blouses or midi skirts to create texture and interest.
Suitable for: Anyone can rock an apron dress thanks to its relaxed fit.
Sewing pattern match: Apron by Studio Handworks
An asymmetrical dress draws interest by having a non-symmetrical neck or hemline. Asymmetrical details are often seen in elegant or going-out dresses over casual styles because it creates a statement or area of interest. Necklines may have one wider strap and the other thin, or the hem may be different lengths on each side.
Suitable for: An asymmetrical dress can be many different silhouettes, so it’s best to recognise what shape the garment is more so than the asymmetrical details. If you don’t like your arms or shoulders, an asymmetrical neckline probably isn’t for you. The same goes for the hem. If you don’t like showing your legs, this probably isn’t for you.
Sewing pattern match: Colette dress by Viki Sews
Baby Doll Dress
The baby doll dress was intended to be worn as a nighty but is now a casual or going-out style. Baby doll dresses are short, loose-fitting dresses that often have a fitted bodice which the skirt falls from. This relaxed style is playful and fun, perfect for a warm day. Baby doll dresses are commonly seen in many bohemian-style brands like Doen and Free People.
Suitable for: Babydoll dresses are perfect for women with wider hips and smaller busts who want to create a balance between the two. They work on pretty much any body type. With this dress style, it’s more about feeling comfortable with the length.
Sewing pattern match: Babydoll dress by Alpha Patterns
A ballgown is an elegant formal dress long in length, often touching the ground. Ballgowns come in an extensive range of styles, fabrics and colours. Many types will have an off-the-shoulder neckline with a low décolletage. They are worn to balls, weddings, charity events or other formal occasions. Ballgowns are subjective to your style; it’s just the term for a traditional occasion dress.
The balloon dress is a feminine and romantic style that can be created with lightweight voluminous fabrics and playful cuts. The balloon effect can start at the neckline into the waist or at the waist into the hemline. Many fast fashion designs have taken inspiration from the balloon silhouette by adding similar characteristics to sleeves and hems but toning it down for daily wear.
Suitable for: This style defines the waist and adds volume to the hip area, perfect for rectangular and apple body shapes.
A blazer dress is perfect if you want to look modern and chic. Similar to a standard blazer, the blazer dress is longer and can be looser or more fitted to the body, depending on the style you are looking for. A blazer dress is a playful, modern twist on a traditional wardrobe staple piece. A blazer dress is also referred to as a tuxedo dress.
Suitable for: Depending on the cut of the blazer dress, it can be ideal for all body types. Opt for a fitted waist style if you have wider hips, like a pear or hourglass shape. Opt for a straight blazer style if you have a rectangular or inverted triangle body shape.
Blouson dresses are very feminine and elegant dress styles that look lovely on any body type. The blouson dress is a relaxed style that is cinched at the waist by elastic, a tie or a belt. The bodice often billows to add a more relaxed, comfortable feel to the style. This dress type can be found in both long or short and casual or formal styles.
Sewing pattern match: The Wilder Gown by Friday Pattern Company
Boho dresses are often floaty styles which can be long or short. A boho dress is not a cut or shape of a dress but rather the style and vibe of dresses. Boho dresses are made from lightweight materials like poplins, voile, rayon, chiffon, lace or lightweight linens, which create a relaxed, floaty feel. They can come in patterns or any colour and have details like tiered layers, ruffles, shirring, smocking, lace trims, ties or buttons. The American brand Doen is the essence of boho dresses; they design relaxed, modern styles that are loved worldwide.
Sewing pattern match: Dua dress by Makyla Creates
In modern fashion, the cami is a loose-fitting, strappy dress initially intended to serve as an undergarment but has been adapted for daytime wear. It’s also known as a slip dress, but camisole dresses can have lace details around the bust area. There are a variety of lengths to choose from, such as minis and maxis. They are usually made in a silky material like silk, rayon, satin or cotton poplin.
A cocktail dress can take you from day to night. It came about when people dressed between casual and formal evening wear. Cocktail dresses are worn to events, special occasions or social gatherings. A simple shoe switch can elevate a cocktail dress from casual to evening wear.
A corset dress has a structured bodice that is tight against the bust. It can have straps or be strapless, but the shaping of the bodice will be fitted. Corset dresses are elegant and romantic. They can have boning in the seams depending on the style. Sometimes designers don’t add boning, but they use the fabric’s seams to create a corset look. Many corset dresses are paired with a pencil or A-line-shaped skirt.
Suitable for: This style highlights the chest and waist. It’s suitable for all body types, especially women who want to highlight the décolletage.
Sewing pattern match: Lily Dress by Chikafrik Patterns
The cutout dress has become incredibly popular over the last few years. Adding interest to a simple dress style by having cutouts in the waistline or back. These cutouts can be paired with elastic to help hold the dress on the body, as seen in the black dress below. Cutout dresses can be found as relaxed or going-out styles.
Sewing pattern match: McCall’s Sewing Pattern M8252
Denim dresses can come in most styles suitable for structured materials like fit and flare, corset, shift and shirt dresses. Denim dresses are defined by the material being denim, not the dress’s cut.
Empire Waisted Dress
A dress with an empire waist has the skirt fall below the bust, not at the waist. Empire waists are often paired with babydoll and maxi dresses to create a relaxed, playful style. This dress style has been trending since the Netflix series Bridgerton aired, a common style seen among the cast costumes.
Suitable for: An empire waist elongates the wearer’s body making this style perfect for shorter or larger women.
Sewing pattern match: Chloe Maxi Dress by Makyla Creates.
Fit and Flare Dress
Fit and flare dresses have a fitted waist and full skirts that flare out at the hips. This style was trendy in the 40’s thanks to Christian Dior introducing the style in his 1947 collection.
Suitable for: This flared style is best for rectangle, hourglass and apple body shapes. Avoid this if you are a pear or have wider hips as it can make this area appear bigger.
Sewing pattern match: Vogue V9182
Halter Neck Dress
Halter dresses have a high neck and are tied up or wrapped around the neck by straps. Many halterneck dresses can leave the upper back exposed. This style is commonly seen in casual summer dresses or formal ball gowns.
Suitable for: Women with a medium to full bust. This neckline draws the eye up and in, away from the shoulders’ width, perfect for straight, hourglass, inverted triangle body shapes. Square and broad shoulders will benefit from this shoulder-narrowing silhouette.
An unevenly draped hemline is characteristic of handkerchief dresses. It creates interest and layers in a dress instead of having a straight hemline. The name of the dress style comes from its resemblance to a handkerchief.
Sewing pattern match: Butterick Handkerchief dress
A kaftan or caftan traditionally has long, flowing sleeves and is ankle-length. Long, buttoned-up robes were originally worn by men in the Middle East as loose dresses. Now it is worn by women as a comfortable dress in the warmer months. Many styles have shorter sleeves and ties around the waist.
Sewing pattern match: Simplicity S8657
A lace dress is made from lace material or includes lots of lace detailing in the fabric. Lace dresses can come in any style it is the material lace that defines it. Lace dresses are commonly seen as a boho or relaxed style. Many wedding dresses include delicate lace or lace detailing.
Little Black Dress
The little black dress is a short, cocktail-style dress that originated in the 1920s by Coco Chanel. It was a design that was intended to be affordable, durable and versatile. Now the ‘LDB’ is considered a staple wardrobe piece that every woman should own.
Long Sleeve Dress
Long sleeve dresses can be any style, but the sleeves with go down to the wrist. They can be both knit or woven dresses as you can see below. If you want to wear something warmer without a coat or jacket long sleeve dresses are a great option.
Mermaid’s Tail Dress
This elegant style sits closely around the torso and hips then flares out into a ‘mermaid tail’ onto the floor. Mermaid’s tail dresses are seen in formal and evening wear dresses that are worn to special occasions and events.
Mini, Midi and Maxi Dresses
Not a style of dress but rather the lengths of dresses.
Mini dresses sit anywhere above the knee. A babydoll dress, for example, sits higher on the thigh to create a playful look. Midi dresses sit below the knee but above the mid-calf. Workwear styles such as peplum dresses, long-sleeved dresses, and fit-and-flare commonly use this length. Maxi dresses sit at the ankle or on the floor. Boho dresses are often maxi styles to create volume and texture. Ballgowns are also considered maxi dresses.
An off-the-shoulder dress is distinguished by a neckline that typically sweeps across the chest just above the bust. The sleeves begin at the top of the off-the-shoulder neckline, so there is usually no sleeve head just an underarm seam. Some styles can allow you to pull the sleeves up higher if you need more coverage.
Suitable for: You will look great in off-the-shoulder tops if you have a lean pear or hourglass figure. You should avoid wearing off-shoulder tops if you have an apple, rectangle, or inverted triangle body to keep your shoulders from becoming broader.
One Shoulder Dress
One-shoulder dresses have only one shoulder or sleeve instead of two, leaving part of the collarbone and shoulder exposed. Some designs will have one half or full sleeve or a simple strap over one shoulder. This style is seen in vacation wear and elegant dresses.
Suitable for: One-shoulder dresses are fabulous for all body types. It draws attention away from the lower body to the neck and shoulders.
Pencil skirts are named after the shape of a pencil. Pencil skirts are straight, slim-fitting skirts that sit just above the knee. This style is commonly seen in workwear and occasional dress styles because it is elegant and timeless.
Suitable for: A pencil skirt is great for all body shapes thanks to its versatile cut. Thinner women will find the style sits straight against their hips. With curvier body shapes like the hourglass and pear, the skirt will shape with the body.
A peplum dress has a flared ruffle sewn into the waistline to add extra volume and detail. This style is worn to work or to formal occasions. Sometimes a peplum can be added to the hemline instead of the waist.
Suitable for: Peplum dresses work best on hourglass or triangular body shapes.
A form-fitting dress with a princess line or darts to shape it instead of a waist seam. Sheath dresses are not tight but more fitted than shift dresses. This style is often seen in corporate workwear or worn to formal occasions and events.
Suitable for: Hourglass or heart shapes look best in sheath dresses since their form-fitting silhouette highlights their proportions.
Sewing pattern match: McCalls 7085
This dress has darts around the bust, and the fabric falls straight from the shoulders. Typically, it has a high scoop or boat neck. It is common to confuse shift dresses with sheath dresses, which are form-fitting and shape the waist with tucks.
Suitable for: Shift dresses look lovely when paired with heels on apple and athletic shapes. Avoid this style if you are a pear or hourglass shape as it won’t show off your curves.
The shirt dress is a longer version of a standard button-up shirt. Shirt dresses can be mini, midi or maxi lengths and have a waist tie for extra structure. Some styles will have a higher front hem and a low back hem for added interest. The front buttons up as a shirt, and the neckline will have some sort of collar. This dress style is suitable for workwear, especially in a corporate environment.
Suitable for: All body types. If you have a pear and hourglass body shape try adding a tie or belt around the waist to cinch it in.
Figure skaters wear this style of dress, hence the name skater dress. Skater dresses flare at the waist and end just above the knee. They are a popular dress type designed to fit snugly over any body type.
Suitable for: Regardless of your body shape, skater dresses are sure to complement your shape.
A slip dress was traditionally used as an undergarment for sheer dresses. Now in 2022, it’s one of the most popular dress styles on the market thanks to its flattering drape on the body. Slip dresses are cut on the bias to allow the fabric to stretch and drape with the body’s curves. It’s an elegant and classy style worn casually or formally.
Suitable for: Every body shape will look great in a bias slip dress thanks to the bias cut of the fabric. It is figure-hugging, so if you prefer to avoid showing your curves or body shape, this style is not for you.
Sewing pattern match: Sicily Slip Dress by Sewing Patterns by Masin
In terms of shape and size, smock dresses are unstructured, made from lightweight materials, and have a voluminous appearance.
Suitable for: An apple-shaped body can balance out a thicker midsection by wearing dresses without fixed waists. Since smock dresses are loose-fitting and unstructured any body type will suit this type of dress.
Strapless dresses sit across the top of the bust. If they are made from woven fabric they will be held up by elastic or boning in the bodice. If the dress is knitted it will clinch to the body.
Suitable for: Anyone wanting to highlight the décolletage, collar bone and neck area.
An informal or casual sundress is typically made of lightweight fabric, most commonly cotton or linen, and is loose-fitting to be worn during warm weather. It can be any shape or length, but it should be comfortable and flowy.
The perfect dress for colder weather. A sweater dress is a knit-style dress that can be oversized or fitted to the body. Many styles will have a high neckline, like a turtle neck, to add extra warmth.
Suitable for: Loose-fitting sweater dresses are best for most body shapes. If you are a pear shape, you may want to avoid them as they can make the hips look larger unless you cinch in the waist.
Sweetheart Neckline Dress
Also seen on many top styles, the sweetheart neckline dress is a flattering style that highlights the décolletage. The shape can vary from style to style, but they all follow an elegant heart-like shape along the neckline edge. You can find styles that are tight-fitting or looser.
Suitable for: Fuller-chested women because it really accentuates the décolletage.
Square Neck Dress
Square neck dresses have just that – a square-shaped neckline. It has become increasingly popular over the last few years among casual tops and dress styles. Often seen paired with puffy sleeves.
The classic T-shirt dress is a longer version of a standard boxy t-shirt. This style is very relaxed and casual, often worn with knee-high boots.
Suitable for: Most body shapes. Just make sure to get the right size, so it’s nice and oversized. If you have wider hips, you may prefer to avoid this style as it can look a bit frumpy.
My favourite dress type is a wrap style because I have a pear-shaped body. A wrap dress works wonders for small-waist women who want to draw attention to this area. The cinched-in waist will balance out wider hips, helping create balance. Wrap dresses usually have a tie around the waist which can be adjusted. A mock wrap dress will have a zipper on the back or side of the dress.
Suitable for: Pear, rectangle, and hourglass body shapes to accentuate the waist.
Sewing pattern match: My free DIY Wrap Dress tutorial.
I hope you have gained insight into new styles and how they fit different body types through this guide to 41 types of dresses. Understanding the design features of dress styles and how to use them on your body shape will help you make more informed decisions.
If you are planning to purchase or sew a new dress style I would love to know if the comments section below!