We all know who can wear maxi dresses easily: the tall, the broad shouldered and minimally breasted, the pears, the hourglass…basically the same usual suspects who have an easier time of plus size dressing to begin with.
So let’s talk about the people for whom this is a more challenging silhouette. Short girls, I’m looking at you.
I don’t adore maxi dresses on short women. It’s just a tough look to pull off because when you’ve got a lot of a fabric but not a lot of height, the line between chic and circus tent is painfully thin.
That doesn’t mean you can’t wear them at all, it’s just that if you’re the featured centerfold in Squat n’ Busty Quarterly, finding the right maxi dress might present some difficulties. Don’t fret too much though. As I tell all my short and apple-shaped readers: you get miniskirts and tall boyfriends, let the tall girls have this one.
Also, if “flattering” is your stylistic be-all and end-all, you might as well get off the bus right now.
A hostess gown is never going to be your go-to when you want something that the makes desert bloom and the angels sing by virtue of your mere presence. Stick to your structured A-line frocks and all shall be well. Boring, but well.
Oh, a slight derailment:
Every time I dedicate a post to a particular body type, I get hordes of dissenters hellbent on disagreeing with me based on their personal experience and then I have to pretend I care.
Don’t make me pretend to care.
I’m not good at it and it makes the vein in my forehead do weird things. So let’s just all save ourselves some trouble. If I say XYZ might be best left to another body shape but you are convinced XYZ looks better on you than anything has ever looked on anyone there are a few options which I have listed here in order of probability. Pick one and run with it.
Option One: You are an exception to the rule that was really only a suggestion in the first place. There are few hard and fast rules anyway, and even those have their exceptions. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be one of them.
Option Two: You do not look as good as you think you do. Before you get on your huffy bike, remember we’ve all been there. Unless you were born fully-formed and immaculately-clothed at age 37 out of Yves Saint Laurent’s forehead, you’ve doubtlessly got some badly-dressed skeleton in your closet that, at one time, was just the best thing ever. Do I need to bring up my gold lamé toreador outfit complete with black stretch satin capris and bugle bead trim? Personal style evolves.
Option Three: I am wrong. It’s happened. Not often, but it’s happened. Witness again the bugle beads.
With that out of the way, let’s venture bravely forward. Mind the low branches.
The lilliputian among us must approach ankle-length dresses with appropriate fear and trembling.
Done correctly you’ll look comfortable and glamorous. Done incorrectly you’ll look like a garden gnome who’s just joined a cult.
This garden gnome obeys the laws of proportion for a maxi dress. Long skirt = deep neckline.
What makes the maxi silhouette difficult for a shetland person is the proportion.
First there’s the old “Chest or Legs” chestnut: the successful outfit highlights one or the other, never both at once.
If you go long on the cleavage and short on the skirt, you run the risk of looking like your life’s work can be summed up in the phrase “ping pong trick”. Interesting on a business card, but sartorially-speaking not the ideal result.
Taking the chest or legs thing a bit further, another rule of proportion is to balance out a dramatically long skirt with an appropriately dramatic neckline.
Academically speaking this doesn’t necessarily mean the airing of the cleave –witness Hilary Swank’s business-in-the-front-party-in-the-back Guy Laroche gown from the 2005 Oscars– but as for what’s available on the retail market, you’re mostly going to get variations on the plunging V theme.
This, as you know, can be problematic for the exuberantly bosomed.
For the sake of propriety, not to mention office dress codes, a sternum-showing neckline is not the best choice to keep both Thelma AND Louise under wraps for long, but we’ll get to the seriously busty girls later this week.
If you’re a short girl dead set on wearing a maxi dress, avoid fussy patterns. You probably know this anyway, but for some reason otherwise sensible women are out and about wearing floor-sweeping dresses in patterns and colors I haven’t seen since Steven Hill bet me a week of milk money that I wouldn’t lick his pet toad.
Something like this colorblocked number from Avenue might serve you well.
The blocked stripes elongate the silhouette and give the illusion of a deeper V than the neckline actually allows. Plus, even though it’s still full length, it isn’t cut so voluminously as to overwhelm the wearer with random floating fripperies. Accessories here are minimal but significant: earrings, neat hair (long flowing dresses or long flowing hair, not both) and either a substantial bracelet if your arms are long enough not to enstumpen you or –my preference– a cocktail ring large enough to draw other, lesser cocktail rings into its orbit by gravitational pull.
If you’re dead set on an all-over pattern, try to go for something like this, also from Avenue.
The vertical stripes, though a bit of a cliche in short person dressing, still do what they’re supposed to do in creating a longer line while the criss-cross at the bust suggests the presence of a waist where once there was none. The dress is reportedly 56″ long so you could conceivably hem off the entire bottom pattern.
If you’re looking for something dressier and don’t mind baring arms, you could trot out the Eva from Igigi. The mono-shoulder seems to be an enduring trend so if you weren’t old enough to wear it in the days of disco, now’s your time. Also, it’s not camo but a rather lovely slightly orientalist floral.
From my experience with Igigi, admittedly several years ago, they are VERY generous on the vanity sizing so order smaller than you’d think. Also, be prepared to hem.
Okay gang, that’s my thousand words on plus size maxi dresses for short girls. Stay with me the rest of the week and if you’ve got thoughts or questions NOT covered by my derailment at the top of the post, stick ‘em in the comments.