Rules About Wearing Dresses

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Knowing some rules can make getting dressed a snap.
Knowing some rules can make getting dressed a snap. (Image: Digital Vision/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Achieving a certain image is likely what comes to mind when you think about style, but fashion is also about feeling as good as you look. It's easier to attain this confidence when you understand the rules surrounding certain pieces in your wardrobe. Knowing the rules allows you to follow them with self-assurance, and even lets you break them when you feel a little daring. The most basic precepts for dresses focus primarily on their different lengths. A little basic information about minis, midis and maxis can help you wear dresses with ease.

The Mini-dress

Avoiding over-exposure is the key to wearing a mini-dress. That fine line between looking sexy rather than lewd is easy to cross if you don’t follow the golden rule of the mini: Choose a dress that is short or tight, but never both. Leave a little extra room in the skirt and the top portion of the dress whenever your hemline is high, and be sure to cover your top half thoroughly. You don’t have to cover the top of your body completely, but remember that the point of a mini-dress is to flaunt your legs. Plunging necklines, open backs and other barely-there elements on the top of the dress pull attention away from the very feature a mini-dress is meant to highlight.

The Midi-Dress

By definition, true midi-dresses should stop at the middle of your calf. Different designers, however, make dresses of different lengths and call them all midi-dresses. And one woman’s midi might be a petite woman’s maxi or stop just below the knees of a taller woman. Always try on midi-dresses before you buy them and make sure that the length looks good on you rather than focusing on what the length is supposed to be. Tall women can usually rock a midi without issues. Petite women do best with a hemline that falls just below the knee and should choose solid colors or prints that are not overwhelmingly busy or large. Whatever your height, always choose heels rather than flats with a midi-dress to elongate your lower legs.

The Maxi-Dress

Wearing a maxi dress is all about avoiding a frumpy look. Maxis can be Bohemian chic or formal depending upon the style and accessories, but the wrong combinations can make you look like you wrapped yourself in bed sheets. If you’re petite, choose a more form-fitting maxi rather than a baggy one that can easily overwhelm you. Consider a deep V-neck to add length to your appearance. V-necks are also a good choice for plus-sized figures as are wide shoulder straps. Opt for large prints if you are tall and curvaceous and medium-sized prints if you have lots of curves but not much height. Pearls, crystal and gold jewelry dress up a maxi, while beaded accessories lean casual. However you wear it, the key is to make sure the dress complements your figure rather than envelop it.

Make sure long dresses flatter you -- not consume you.
Make sure long dresses flatter you -- not consume you. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

For All Seasons

Although more of a helpful hint than hard-and-fast rule, don't limit your dresses to just one season. Dresses are often thought of as spring and summer attire but wearing them in the winter allows you to spend much more time enjoying your favorite pieces. To wear summery dresses in cold months without suffering frostbite, pair them with thick tights and boots. Bold colors work best in winter. Prints can work as well, but stay away from Hawaiian prints and anything else that skews tropical. Layer the top portion of the dress to provide warmth and change the look a bit -- a sweater is the fastest and easiest way to do this, but you can also wear a long-sleeved shirt underneath. Scarves and beanies also help keep you warm while adding winter flair to a summer dress.

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