At navabi we stock the largest range of clothing in sizes 14+ in the world. Among these, dresses are our most sought after items. We thought we’d take some of that knowledge and condense it into an ‘absolute guide to plus size dresses’. Whether you’re fully confident in your style and looking for something specific, or wondering about trying a new style outside your comfort zone, we hope this may offer some little insights.
Dress is all we need
When you hear the word ‘dress’, what do you think of? A ballgown, a 1960s-style mini dress, that cool shirt dress you’ve had your eye on? That’s the beauty of dresses: they’re so versatile.
Pretty, feminine and an all-in-one outfit, dresses are many women’s go-to for a reason. Much like people, our plus size dresses come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s just a question of finding the perfect fit for you. Whether that’s a mini, midi or maxi, long sleeve or short sleeve dress, whether you need it for a wedding, a party or just for every day, the right dress is waiting for your wardrobe.
Shopping for a plus size dress has its own challenges, and there are various factors to keep in mind when shopping for any dress.
The material is one of the most important: whether it’s breathable, whether it’s appropriate for the occasion, whether it is likely to crease or not, whether it’s likely to make you too warm, or conversely, not keep you warm enough.
Sleeve length is really important, especially around your personal comfort, and whether you’ll want to wear a cardigan or a bolero over your dress.
Another item on the plus size dresses checklist is length: are you a mini, midi or maxi kind of person? If you’re not sure, then maybe trying a midi will feel comfortable, as well as looking chic on almost everyone.
The style itself is also a crucial factor, whether you like to keep the shape drapey and flowing or prefer something with darts that shows your silhouette off more. Styles with buttons might present a problem to people with a bigger bust, so a more relaxed, A-line shape or fabric with stretch rather than a woven material could work well.
A maxi dress is a total summer classic: a strapless, tiered style is perfect for your holiday wardrobe. But don’t forget it when the winter rolls around. A long-sleeve jersey or fine wool maxi dress is a great blend of comfy, cosy and cool when worn with boots in colder weather.There’s a common myth that more petite women, whether plus size or not, should steer clear of maxi styles, but as long as you go for a solid, dark colour and a simple shape over a more fussy maxi, you’ll look just as graceful as a taller woman.
Shift dresses call to mind all the playful elegance of years gone by. A classic shape that's typically made of a more sturdy material so it can skim the contours of the body, a shift is perfect for more formal settings like work. Darts around the bust give it the shape it needs to feel feminine, and from there it follows the body without too much tailoring. We love shift dresses in woven fabrics like strong cotton.
Especially in this day and age of annual summer heatwaves, you always want to be prepared for when the hot weather hits unexpectedly- no sweating in jeans and a t-shirt for you. That means a selection of lightweight dresses made of breathable natural fibres that will keep you feeling and looking cool. Even if keeping as cool as possible is your main motivation, it’s also wise to have a few short sleeve dresses among your sleeveless or spaghetti strap styles in case you catch the sun. Even better: they’ll double up as ideal holiday packing when you’re lucky enough to head off somewhere sunny.
Sometimes, when you just have to pull out all the stops and go full-glam, only a ballgown will do. We love our evening dresses beautifully embellished with sequins and beading, and made of the most luxurious fabrics like satin, lace and tulle. A full-length formal dress can be a good time to shop styles specifically edited for your body shape, even if that’s not something you normally do, especially if the dress is going to be figure-hugging. This kind of dress is perfect for more formal weddings or awards ceremonies: a time when you really want to shine.
If it’s a fancy engagement but doesn’t call for all-out formalwear, a cocktail dress is your best friend. Whether that’s for a wedding, a dinner party, a work event, there will be a cocktail dress for you. These dresses fall either just below or just above the knee, depending on your height and personal preference. They’re often short-sleeved or sleeveless but if you prefer to cover up, there are lots of pretty styles with sheer sleeves to give you a bit of coverage without feeling overheated. Cocktail dresses are often popular in rich jewel tones or sweet pastels, not to mention the classic LBD.
It might be a bold claim but we reckon wrap dresses are a style that look great on just about everyone. Popularised in the 1970s and a quintessential workwear style, these drapey jersey dresses are so easy to wear, whether with bare legs and sandals, relaxed flats or ankle boots and tights. The adjustable tie-waist gives a degree of physical comfort that’s well-suited to people who feel constricted by zips and buttons, and if you have a bigger bust it might work well for you to slip on a lightweight vest underneath in a similar tone to the dress.
If you want to switch out the suits and bring a touch of femininity to your workwear wardrobe, an office-appropriate dress is the way to go. It’s easier to wear than a shirt tucked into a skirt - no worries about lumpiness around the waistband - and feels more chic. The perfect work dress is generally a dark colour like black, navy or grey, and is always long enough that you don’t feel self-conscious around the office. A sharp collar or cuffs would be an ideal little extra to really elevate a dress to work status, and we love cool buttons in pearl or brass to finish off the look.
No wardrobe is complete without a few day dresses. Pieces you love to throw on, feel cute and head out the door, seeing you through the day without making you feel over- or under-dressed. Whether that means relaxed jersey t-shirt dresses, cool, button-down shirt dresses, tea dresses or any number of other styles, whatever makes you feel comfortable.
This is a kind of dress where you can play with pattern and details without worrying too much about whether it’s appropriate for the occasion or setting. Let your tastes shine through and experiment with colour, shape and length.
Dress with sleeves
Obviously, you should let the seasons guide you in your choice of sleeve length for your dress. But also factor in what kind of event you’ll be wearing it to, whether you’ll feel self conscious, or if you’ll want to wear a cardigan over it which might not be weather-appropriate.
Long sleeve dresses are gorgeous and cosy in the winter, sleeveless dresses are perfect for events and can be worn with a pretty embellished bolero over the top, and short sleeves work well all year round.
As with so many things, the most important factor when shopping for a plus size dress is comfort. Not just physical comfort of the dress itself, but how comfortably it fits into the life you have, how comfortable it fits your particular body and your needs.
All clothes should make you feel great, and you can’t do that while fidgeting and distracted in a dress that’s not working for you. A dress can’t make you feel great if it’s just hanging in your wardrobe, hardly ever worn because it’s dry clean only or you don’t have the right bra. Make sure the dress you’re choosing is right for the occasion, but also right for you and your body.
For this reason, at navabi, we stock the largest range of clothing in the world in sizes 14+. With hundreds of beautiful dresses and more added each day, we hope you’ll find something you love.
We’re so committed to figuring out what you need from a dress that we asked more than 100 women what they took into account when shopping for dresses as part of their everyday lives.
In order to wear a dress for a long time make sure that you know how to clean and dry the material your dress made of
We know not everyone wants to iron, so it’s good to consider whether the material is one that’ll crease a lot or whether you can get away with just hanging it up.
If you love going hands-free, check whether the dress has pockets.
Although we don’t believe that any dresses should be off-limits to anyone, it can be useful to make sure that the neckline works well with your bust size, particularly if it’s bigger.
Consider the versatility factor, whether it’ll look equally good with or without tights, and whether it works with the outerwear pieces you already have.
It’s also good to think about where the waistline hits in relation to your height and body shape. If you’re bigger on the bottom half, it’s good to remember not just to consider the length of the dress as it is, but how your body shape will impact the length, especially when sitting down.
Again, on the length of the dress, if you’re planning to wear it with bare legs and you like to wear anti-chafing shorts for security, it’s a good idea to ensure that the dress is long enough to conceal the shorts.
If you’re buying a dress for a special event, make sure you have the right underwear to wear with it, whether that’s shapewear or just knickers and bra in the right color so they won’t be seen through the fabric.
If you're not tall and have a lot of your clothes altered so they fit perfectly, the hemline is worth checking to make sure it doesn’t have any unusual details that would make alteration difficult for you or your seamstress.