Dresses to dress my problem bits
May 25, 2023 10:54 AM   Subscribe

So this summer, I will be attending my first wedding since covid, and I have also happened to gain a bit of weight during covid, meaning none of my dresses fit. I am not at all fashionable in my daily life but for Reasons, I would like to look nice and feel confident at this wedding, but I've never bought a dress for my body as it is right now. More below...

Basically, I am looking for a long dress (at least calf length) that does not accentuate the stomach area and has long sleeves or sleeves almost to the elbow. Also not low cut, as I don't have much in the way of boobage anyway. So basically the only thing I want accentuated would be the waist, I think. So I think I'm looking for a dress that is pretty conservative but somehow also feminine and lightweight, as this will be summer in California. Another thing about length... I am petite (5 feet) so many "maxi" dresses are way too long for me. I am at a loss what length to get since I also don't want to show my legs. I basically want to be covered up but somehow not look like a nun? Any ideas would be great!
posted by madonna of the unloved to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I would go to eShakti and find a style that you like. I think a "fit and flare" would be flattering. The dresses are very customizable and they do a nice job. You can customize sleeve lengths, dress lengths, neckline style, etc. You will need to take a lot of measurements but the overall process is fast.
posted by happy_cat at 11:01 AM on May 25 [9 favorites]

This does not meet your requirement for an accentuated waist, but this dress (or a close equivalent) has been on the rack at Marshall's/TJMaxx/Burlington every season I've shopped. I bought one and wore it many times with a funky long necklace and big earrings. Comfortable, modest, cute, easy to wear. I would search "chiffon overlay" at your fav online retailer and try from there.

Mine was purple, knee length with batwing sleeves and can sadly only be seen from the waist up in this photo.
posted by jennypower at 11:18 AM on May 25 [1 favorite]

I think you might find a lot of stuff that would work at Boden (petite-friendly) .
posted by thivaia at 11:19 AM on May 25 [2 favorites]

Have you ever used Rent the Runway? It's great for events like this. You can filter for so many things — length, neckline, sleeves, color, level of formality. For example, I filtered for "wedding guest" dresses, tea- or floor-length, with sleeves, and found this 70s-style maxi dress and this pretty wrap dress.

They also have tons of customer reviews with photos that you can also filter to match what you're looking for. This is really great for seeing what it looks like on people shaped like yourself rather than the tall, thin models, and people leave a lot of great information about fit and sizing. I've used the service a few times and have been very satisfied.
posted by SeedStitch at 11:22 AM on May 25 [3 favorites]

I'm short too and I just want to say that if you open yourself to the idea of having a dress's hem shortened by a tailor (this is usually the kind of simple thing that a tailor at a dry cleaner will be able to do easily), you will have a lot more possibilities.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:23 AM on May 25 [6 favorites]

I agree that eShakti is perfect for your purposes! Their dresses are by default customized for height, so a maxi would actually be a maxi, although they also have different gradations of maxi. You'll also be able to add sleeves to most sleeveless dresses and raise most necklines. Not every length, sleeve type, neckline, etc. is available for every style, but chances are good that you'll be able to frankenstein your dream dress together. They also have a tool that shows you what your customizations will look like, so you don't have to guess at what they mean by things like "mid-calf length." Just order far enough in advance that they have time to make the dress and ship from India! And I'd order a few if you see a few you like—returns are easy but there's rarely time to return one dress and then wait for another.
posted by babelfish at 11:26 AM on May 25 [1 favorite]

I agree that "fit and flare" is the style you want. If you want a below-the-knee dress, just keep in mind that one that ends at the thickest part of your calf, as some midis tend to do, needs to be avoided. And always remember: tents are not flattering. You want something that fits as well as possible without looking lumpy. No easy task, I know!!!!, but a big shapeless piece will only make you look bigger.
posted by praemunire at 11:38 AM on May 25

At your height, a lot of "midi" dresses will very nearly max out on you, and remember that they make camis/tanks that are meant to show, which can modest-ize too much plunge.

I love a wrap midi because the wrap usually means a higher/empire waist that blurs the middle and also often restrains the wrap neckline from being gape-y or too low. Asos also has a whole section of wedding guest dresses that have some amazing full-coverage looks.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:46 AM on May 25 [3 favorites]

(That was UK Asos, sorry if that's the wrong country - US store link)
posted by Lyn Never at 11:48 AM on May 25 [1 favorite]

I love eShakti and once would have recommended them without reservation, but I hang out in the Wardrobe Oxygen FB group and there have been a LOT of complaints there about eShakti being slow to respond and poor customer service. So beware there.

In return for my sad anti-recommendation, I'm sending you to WO for their summer wedding dresses recommendations which I hope will set you on the trail to something you'll like.
posted by gentlyepigrams at 12:03 PM on May 25 [2 favorites]

DVF should have a range that would work, if it's in your budget and not too casual.
posted by snuffleupagus at 12:09 PM on May 25

Get a floaty midi dress. There should be lots and lots of them, and your requirements are quite easy to meet with a currently fashionable dress, as high necked and defined waist is a sillhouette that is currently "in". If it's too long, get it hemmed shorter. I am about your height and a midi dress would look maxi length on me, but for a wedding I'd be willing to spend the time to get it altered.
posted by plonkee at 12:37 PM on May 25 [1 favorite]

I'm also 5 feet tall and prefer to hide my arms and midsection, and I'm pretty happy with this ZESICA dress from Amazon. I also have two of the Amazon Essentials knit midi skirt which are very comfortable (although you might need a slip; Jones NY makes anti-cling slips like this that I really like).

For brick and mortar shops, I recently had a lot of luck buying dresses and skirts at Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft factory stores, so if those are in your area, I recommend giving them a try. They both sell very thin cardigans and shrugs that you can use for extra coverage (I recently wore one in 95° heat and was fine).

Also, this is probably too casual for a wedding, but as a fellow short person I recommend this ANRABESS dress from Amazon. Basically feels like pajamas!
posted by neushoorn at 12:46 PM on May 25

It can be really challenging to shop online for things you don't normally wear and when your body has changed. Can you get to a mall or department store? Nordstrom is great, but so is Macy's. You could also try something like Nordstrom Rack or Ross or Marshalls or TJMaxx, depending on what's near you. There are lots of options.

My suggestion is to go someplace with a range of dresses in your price range, because there might be dresses that look great on the rack but you don't love them on you, and vice versa. And trying them on means you can try on 10, 15, 20 dresses. A whole lot. And you probably wouldn't want to order that many.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:57 PM on May 25 [1 favorite]

I've never ordered from them, but a lot of my friends like Jennafer Grace and you can't get more California. Lots of floaty dresses (some in petite) and caftans. Also tunic and palazzo pant sets like this one which may work, depending on the wedding.

Watch for sheerness- some clothing will require a slip or camisole. And I second everyone who mention taking things to a tailor for the perfect length. I think mine charges 20 bucks to shorten stuff.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:25 PM on May 25 [1 favorite]

How about Anthropologie?

Especially this one (add a belt if needed) or this one to accentuate the waist.
posted by sizeable beetle at 6:51 PM on May 25

If you find an otherwise perfect dress that doesn’t have the arm coverage you want, a cropped lightweight cardigan or bolero can always be layered on top. For summer look for bright or light colors - blush pink is nice, sky blue is universally flattering, silvery grey goes well with nearly everything, green can emphasize any floral print.

This dress is a shape that is fairly common these days, would be summer wedding appropriate and has tons of coverage. It’s likely to be much too long but because the bottom tier ruffle is so long you could easily have it hemmed without losing much of the volume. Definitely budget for tailoring, it makes a huge difference in feeling put together and confident, and is usually quite affordable. If you don’t have a tailor you like, Nordstrom does offer it.
posted by Mizu at 10:45 AM on May 26

As a short queen, midi is maxi and knee length is tea length (mid- calf). I found searching for "modest special occasion dresses" usually found something with sleeves and just below the knee on a normal height woman. If the dress also comes in "petite plus" even better because then you can get a dress the right length and the right size.

Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack will carry petite plus in some brands. I can't say for anywhere else since that's where I got my last two "wedding" dresses.
posted by fiercekitten at 4:19 PM on May 26

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