Tell me what different dresses are called, please!
February 17, 2015 10:07 AM   Subscribe

Much of my wardrobe consists of short (knee length or slightly above) dresses. In the past 2-3 years, however, I've been plagued by a weird cut that seems to be super-popular, but which is intensely unflattering for me: a very slightly full skirt, with a waist that is too high for the natural waistline, but too low for empire. Do you know what this cut is called, and what I should be searching for in order to avoid it? Examples below the fold.

The majority of dresses I've purchased over the years were either an empire waist or this type, where there's a fairly long bodice and a seam at the more-or-less natural waist.

However, lately it seems that many dresses are instead cut like this one, which seems to me clearly neither a 'regular' waist nor an empire waist. I also often see complaints about dresses of this cut in the reviews, that it "fits weird" or "sits strangely on the waist". (And these are my complaints about it, too!)

So my questions are:
-What is this cut of dress called, and what kinds of figures are meant to wear it?
-What is my preferred cut of dress called, so I can search for that specifically when shopping?

Many thanks from a 30-something woman in a perplexingly ill-fitting dress!
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
" fit-and-flare" and they look weird on me as well. I have a long waist and these waistlines never hit anywhere near my natural one.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:11 AM on February 17, 2015

Yep, Fit and Flare. They look great on me, but I'm short-waisted pear-shape. I think my body's short waist and the dress's short waist combine to be a properly-fitting dress.
posted by gatorae at 10:15 AM on February 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

The one you don't like is often called a "skater" dress, as in figure skating.
posted by checkitnice at 10:16 AM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

Agrees on fit and flare. However you can also find them without a defined or seamed waist which may help overall fit. Here's a good one.
posted by Crystalinne at 10:17 AM on February 17, 2015

I am not sure what they're called, but they are designed to fit figures like the one I have! I am short-waisted with big boobs. Empire-waist dresses tend to not give me enough boob-space to cover the girls (and the "skirt" part starts at a weird place, like halfway down the underboob). "Regular" waist dresses tend to hit below my narrowest waist point, making me look like a brick with tits.

I don't anticipate this style lasting forever, but gosh darn it I am going to buy all of the dresses I can before styles change.

on preview: I agree with checkitnice that they are called "skater" dresses. Even though I'm not tall, I will go for the tall size on these dresses if they exist - they're almost universally too short on me.
posted by Elly Vortex at 10:18 AM on February 17, 2015 [7 favorites]

Fit-and-flare dresses and skater dresses are described as being "universally flattering," which is simply a venomous lie from start to finish: both cuts both look totally awful on pear-shaped, long-waisted, big busted me, as they tend to cut me crosswise and make both halves of my body look lumpy.

I'm not sure what shape you have, but if it's anything like mine, I think the most flattering dresses are wrap or faux-wrap (words to look for are either those two or "surplice top"). Princess seams also work well on me, since they just flow over the body and don't cut me in half, as it were.
posted by holborne at 10:29 AM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Yep, I'm pretty sure it's still intended to hit the natural waist, just for people who have their natural waist a bit higher. The ones shaped like your first link are very uncomfortable and unflattering for me - saggy at my real waist and digging into my stomach at the place the dress wants my waist to be.

(I didn't realize until now that your second link was a new trend, or even that I apparently have a short waist - I had noticed recently that I'm finding a lot more dresses that fit me properly but hadn't made the connection. I'm glad to know what they're called now so I can look for more!)
posted by randomnity at 10:30 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, these are really everywhere, aren't they.

The main issue with them isn't so much the shape as it looks on the finished product, but how the fabric is cut. As always, the garment industry is looking to make as much profit as they can and cutting corners everywhere, now it's skirts.

These are half-circle skirts, really easy to cut, and very cheap when cut on the straight of grain. However. When cut on the straight of grain, they drape really weirdly on certain figures. When cut on the bias, which takes a LOT more fabric (thus you'll likely never see one except on someone who's made their own), they have a much more flattering drape.

You can see examples here.

Similar-looking skirts that are more flattering are A-line, and as holborne mentioned, anything with princess seams. The garment industry can't cheap out to the point of cruddy drape with those structures, for the most part. (Barring crappily-cut fabric pieces, but that's a whole other story. If you've ever had jeans/trousers with a leg that keeps twisting and can't figure out why? It's because it wasn't cut straight. The same thing can happen with skirt pieces.)
posted by fraula at 10:34 AM on February 17, 2015 [9 favorites]

I'm not sure people are exactly right with "fit and flare". That applies to all dresses that are fitted on top and flare out on the bottom, including for example this one which has princess seams and is not what you're talking about. "Skater dress" is more like it, but I only see that term used for casual dresses, not workwear.

I also do not suit skater dresses, but wrap dresses and princess seam dresses both work for me.

Also if you search for "merino dress" you may find things you like. For some reason nobody is putting waist seams in merino dresses, thank goodness. As a bonus, all that stuff is on sale right now.
posted by emilyw at 10:38 AM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

The fit-and-flare terminology is still a little confusing, because I know I've seen it used to describe dresses that do not have this cut at all. (On preview, I see emilyw mentions this.) I had also assumed it referred to the skirt being fuller than the top.

But I'm glad I'm not just crazy! It's been so frustrating, because these dresses usually have their waists hitting the narrowest part of my torso, which seems like it should be really flattering! But somehow no, they give the impression of a teenager who hasn't shopped since her last growth spurt.

However, I've noticed that when the dress is fitted throughout, then the mid-level waist is not unflattering at all (but typically this is a far too sexy/formal silhouette for my purposes). So I think fraula has it--the way the skirt tends to be cut on these dresses is more the problem than the waist level. It just makes me look like a lego person--as if the bottom half of me was just clicked on to the top half. I will try searching for dresses that lack the defined waist seam and see if that helps. Thanks!!
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:48 AM on February 17, 2015

One place to look: I have found that British Phase Eight has quite a few dresses with a bit of skirt flare, but that hit at more of the natural waist, and fit boobs.
They frequently have very good sales.
posted by troytroy at 10:56 AM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

But somehow no, they give the impression of a teenager who hasn't shopped since her last growth spurt.

I think that's the intended effect. Dresses (and stores) like the one you linked are meant for the Forever 21 crowd, around ages 16-22. The dress looks off because it's about 3 inches too short for a fit and flare dress. It's meant to skirt the line (pun intended) between children's dresses and adult apparel.

Take this dress, for example. If the same cut is extended to knee length, it looks fine. Similarly, as you noted, if it's tight rather than flaring, it looks fine (it's now overtly sexy instead of "accidentally" sexy).

The dress is meant to invoke the "wow, guess she's not a kid anymore" response.
posted by melissasaurus at 11:21 AM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Dresses (and stores) like the one you linked are meant for the Forever 21 crowd, around ages 16-22.

Argh what a drag...I found Ruche through a fashion blogger who's probably nearing 40, and have assumed it was age appropriate.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:55 AM on February 17, 2015

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