Plus Size Formal Dresses: Finding the Perfect Gown to
Compliment Your Special, Semi Formal or Holiday Occasion

If you're planning to attend a special occasion, chances are the first thing you thought about was your wardrobe. Cocktail and evening wear is tricky: you have to strike the right balance between fad and fashion, between predictability and freakish fads. When you're choosing an evening gown, the last thing you want to worry about is whether you can find one that fits: check out plus sized formal dresses for fashion with a more natural fit.
Women's formal and semi-formal wear are usually designated as such by the length of the gown. Semi-formal gowns may not be floor-length, although they can be. Formal dress requires a floor-sweeping gown. Semi-formal gowns tend to be available in a wider range of styles and colors, since semi-formal wear may not necessarily be evening wear. Daytime weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies should be attended in tea-length or ballet-length dress, with hems falling between the knee and shin. Daytime, semi-formal dress for daytime ceremonies is often lighter in color and more playful than evening wear. Pastels and bright colors may be appropriate, outdoor ceremonies may require hats, which must be coordinated to match the entire ensemble.

If you can only have one item in your formal wardrobe, it should be the little black dress. The LBD, as it's known in fashion circles is not supposed to be "little": I think the phrase came about as a term of endearment. In the same way that you might call someone your "little darling", the LBD inspires fondness and devotion in its wearer. It is rarely little: it is usually quite long. It is always black and always a dress or gown. The LBD is your fashion staple: many French women rely on a single, perfect gown that shows off their attributes without calling attention to any figural flaws. Choosing a little black dress is challenging, because many designers will try to con you into buying something trendy, and once you do, you have just written its death warrant. The little black dress must not ever be trendy: it must be timeless, elegant and certain. It is the one item in your wardrobe that will never fail you, and as such it must be unimpeachable. Here are some rules for choosing your little black dress.

Your Little Black Dress: Some Guidelines
Your LBD may be long, especially if you find yourself often invited to formal occasions, but it must not ever be too short. It should either be truly formal or semi-formal. It can never be a mini-skirt and it shouldn't come much above the knee even if it's semi-formal. If you can wear it (with the correct accessories) to dinner, a funeral, a dance and a seduction, it's the right dress.

No cutouts, ever. No strange fastenings. No rhinestones, rivets, pearls or additional ribbons. The LBD remains unadorned so that you can accessorize it for any occasion.

No weird shapes. No peplums, gores or peculiar sleeves. No shoulder pads, visible pockets or extra-deep cleavage. Choose a simple style that flatters you, but that isn't tailored or overly structured. It should accent your body without revealing too much.

You may want your LBD to accentuate your figure. Don't go overboard! Choose one area you are most proud of, and pick the dress that shows it off to its best advantage. Great legs? Go semi-formal. Beautiful bust? Choose a gown with nice decolletage, but definitely not too much. The goal is to accent, but not to put it all out there.

The fabric must be perfect, classic and lasting. Ideally, it won't invite static cling, which will make it more wearable even in cases of pet hair. It may be silk, linen, wool jersey, or cotton. No rayon, nylon, polyester or acrylic. No cutout or burnout fabrics. Solid fabrics are preferable, but if you find a subtle pattern you really love, it may be all right. If it's hand or machine washable too, you have found a real treasure.

Matching your formal wear to the social occasion is a matter of understanding the difference between lasting elegance and modern trends. If you're dancing at the hottest club in the city, being up-to-the-minute in your clothing may get you inside the velvet rope. But if you want to know the perfect thing to wear to a bridge luncheon, you should consult a book on etiquette and fashion. If you appear at the races at Ascot, England without a hat, the right dress and proper shoes, it won't matter if you have tickets; they won't let you in. But most of the time, the fashion rules are a little bit looser, and you can make your own interpretations.

Holiday wear for formal occasions is generally lush: winter holidays and candlelight occasions make velvet particularly beautiful, and its warmth is an added benefit. Victorian women often wore silk velvet gowns; modern velvets are often made of cotton which is more easily washed. Velvet should never be stiff: otherwise, it gives the impression of being more upholstery than fashion. Look for velvet with a fluid drape and a bright sheen.

Modern satins are usually a bad idea for formal occasions: being all too often made of polyester, they are shiny, slick and cheap-looking. But classic silk-satins are gorgeous; lustrous, gleaming and very expensive, a bias-cut silk satin sheath is the epitome of timeless formal wear for women.

Fancy clothing tends to be black, but for some people, black isn't appealing. Black worn next to the face can age you ten or fifteen years since it doesn't provide any reflection and may tend to point up wrinkles and muddy complexions. Dark skinned people may not like black, which can make you look sallow; people who are especially pale may look even paler, or even ill, in black. After five clothing doesn't have to be black (unless your host or the occasion specifies it): you can certainly find evening wear in a range of beautiful colors and glamorous styles.

In some social sets, the cocktail gown is still a vital part of a woman's wardrobe, but in most of American society, the true cocktail party died out two decades ago. Still, if you're invited to a friend's house for cocktails, it's the perfect excuse to put on a full-skirted dress in some light fabric. Cocktail dresses, although often confused with cocktail gowns, can be distinguished from cocktail gowns by the length and form: cocktail dresses are intended to be more playful. They show off the legs and are often short sleeved or sleeveless. For outdoor cocktail parties, fabric designs with floral or tropical motifs are highly appropriate. Cocktail gowns are longer, more elegant and less frolicsome. Lacking in leg, they tend to emphasize the bust instead, and they are often sleeveless to allow for tight quarters and long gloves. Cocktail parties that take place in the early afternoon or evening are usually made for cocktail dresses: cocktail parties that occur after dinner time are more formal and may require cocktail gowns. If you are attending a cocktail party that's in a public place or is a fund-raiser, your invitation will probably tell you whether dress should be semi-formal or formal.

You don't have to be rich to assemble the right wardrobe for formal or semi-formal events. Contrary to what the fashion magazines would have you believe, you don't have to buy a designer gown to attend museum openings, musical soirees or other hoity-toity bashes. Whatever the occasion, if you don't have a little black dress, you will need one. The perfect LBD can be dressed up with heels and gloves, dressed down with ballet flats and a scarf, or just dressed with your favorite necklace when you have no idea of what else to wear. You can buy terrific formal gowns at second hand clothing stores or at vintage stores, providing they carry a decent size range. With women getting significantly taller over the past hundred years, and with the loss of corseting as a means to keep women small and breathless, many women canít fit into vintage fashions.

For new evening wear, consult the plus sized clothing stores that specialize in elegant, full-figured fashions. To keep it timeless, choose elegance over fashion, concealing over revealing and quality over trendiness.

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