Dress Silhouettes

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Hey, you!

Do you want to know something?!

You can dream, sew, and flaunt your perfect dress.

Yes, you can IF…

you’re patient and never give up!

Okay, then. Let’s learn the most common dress styles…

The Dresses

A-line Dress

The silhouette of an A-line dress or skirt resembles the shape of the letter “A.” That is, it is fitted through the bust, hints at a waistline, and then flares ever so gently from the hip.

This dress may have just a bust dart or French dart by itself or in combination with contour darts. It is a very lovely dress and so easy to wear!


[Projects Coming So Soon!]

Drop-waist Dress

This is a glorious silhouette. It is essentially a bodice with a waist seam lowered to the full hip and then pair with any variety of skirt styles, such as a fitted, a gathered, an A-line, a flared, or a circle. The arrows below point to the dropped waistline. This is just such a sweet silhouette, don’t you think?!


[Projects Coming So Soon!]

Empire Waist Dress

The bodice of this dress is fitted and finishes just below the bust curve — see the arrows below. Think Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” It is also very versatile as you can attach a fitted, a gathered, an A-line, a flared, a pleated, or a circle skirt.


[Projects Coming So Soon!]

Fit-and-Flare Dress

Is there any dress more exquisitely feminine — and flirty — than a fit-and-flare dress?! I don’t think so.

This dress has a fitted bodice with the waist seam at or right above the natural waist and can be paired with an A-line, a  flared, a circle, a pleated, or a gathered skirt. What’s not to love?!


[Projects Coming So Soon!]

Maxi Dress

This is a dress of any style whose hemline falls around the ankle though I have seen women wearing this style dragging on the floor! For me, there three reasons why this just doesn’t make sense:

  1. I don’t like dirty hemlines;
  2. I would be afraid of tripping and landing face down as I am trying to flaunt it; and
  3. I would like my very cute sandals or heels to be on display!

Anyhoo, I love, love this dress silhouette!

Remember this dress: Because I have special plans for it! Very special plans! (Coming So Soon!)


[Projects Coming So Soon!]

Self-Drafted Dress

Did you know that you have patterns hanging in your closet?! Yep! ready-to-wear (RTW) garments that fit you well and that you love can be traced or copied onto tissue paper to make a pattern. So this category is for dresses of any style that I’ve copied from a RTW garment I own and love — without the use of a commercial or PDF pattern!

Honestly, all of the garments I have sewn for myself to date fall into this category.

[Projects Coming So Soon!]

Sheath Dress

This is a dress that skims all of the feminine curves of the body smoothly and has a straight skirt and no waist seam. It can be made in a woven or knit. Wovens will have bust darts and/or contour darts or princess seams.

Click HERE to check out this silhouette.

While woven versions can be quite lovely while you’re standing, I am not fond of this dress silhouette! Because when made in a woven, it squeezes my thighs together like two sausages in one casing.

And when I sit, I can feel the dress straining across my hips! And then, when I stand up, there are “smiley” faces plastered across my front hip area.  That is in no way a look I want to flaunt!

Shift Dress

This dress is so easy to wear! This dress has an undefined waist AND straight side seams. Think Lily Pulitzer, whose prints are ridiculously spectacular but her dresses are so overpriced!

When this dress is made from medium- or heavier-weight fabrics, side bust darts are a MUST for making this silhouette more flattering.

And I know that the pattern below says, its a sheath. But I don’t think so.  Someone got confused. This pattern is definitely a shift dress in my books!


[Projects Coming So Soon!]

Sway (aka tent, trapeze, trapezoid) Dress

Trapeze, trapezoid, or tent dress, whatever you call it, this just might be the comfiest dress silhouette EVER to feel at home in but still look super stylish.

I like to think of it as the first cousin of the A-line dress. This silhouette can be vary from moderate to exaggerated!


Personally, I don’t care for any of the aforementioned names — what woman wants to wear a a tent or a trapeze?! For me, this silhouette in a fabric with the appropriate drape is a sway dress. Now, doesn’t that sound like a dress you would actually want to wear?!

Anyhoo, it is most flattering when it is fitted at the bust and underarm areas before flaring from just below the bustline.

And I find that the best length for this style of dress is just above the knees or, if you’re young and of a tender age, several inches above the knees.

With that said, I’ve seen it looking very splendid in longer lengths as long as you make sure to use a fabric that drapes and floats around your body — and you wear the right shoes.

  • Vogue 9237 ~ FIRST dress project on site! Click HERE to learn from the MEGA 5-part series!

Two-Piece Dress

A dress is essentially a bodice and a skirt attached to each other. But with a 2-piece dress, the bodice and skirt are separated. They are usually in the same fabric and are designed to be worn together as a single unit.

[Projects Coming So Soon!]

Wrap Dress

This dress was made a sensation by Diane von Furstenberg (DVF) in the early 1970’s. It is usually made in a captivating printed jerseys! Today, the wrap dress may be middle-aged, but it is still an iconic dress silhouette for women of style!


[Projects Coming So Soon!]

The End

In this article, you’ve learned about the most popular dress silhouettes.

Remember that whatever the length, shoes will set the tone to any silhouette. So choose wisely.

Okay. Are you feeling confident? Brave? Inspired?

I hope so.

Now, set up your sewing machine next to mine and let’s get busy sewing…

And remember…

Life is the ultimate red carpet event. Dress for it!

RELATED: Click HERE to learn basic sewing skills and HERE to learn all about sewing patterns!

RELATED: Click HERE to learn how to sew insanely pretty dresses!

RELATED: Click HERE if you’re ready to unleash your dressmaking superpowers and learn how to sew a simple dress! Warning: This is a MEGA 5-part series!

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