How to Find Your Best Fitting Prom Dress
What's the key to finding your ideal prom dress size? It all comes down to matching the fabric, cut, and sizing measurements to your body. Whether you want a form-fitting prom dress or a figure-flattering a-line dress, to achieve your ideal look, it's important to take the time to find the right prom dress size for you! Check out the tips here on using prom dress size charts, considering prom dress lengths, and getting your dress measurements in order to minimize the need for expensive prom dress alterations.
How Do I Take Accurate Prom Dress Measurements?
Finding your prom dress size for the perfect fit is straightforward with this handy “how-to” video to walk you through each step. With advice on taking your bust, waist, and hip measurements, putting your measurements into prom dress size charts, and considering the cut and fabric of your formal dress, choosing your best prom dress fit is simplified.Prom Dress Sizing Tips
- Measuring Tape: For the most accurate estimate, PromGirl recommends using a flexible measuring tape. A possible workaround if you do not have access to this sewing tool is to use string to measure yourself, then determine the length of the string using a ruler or self-retracting metal measuring tape.
- What to Wear: Have someone else take your bust, waist, and hip measurements when you are wearing a form-fitting layer over the undergarments you think you will wear with your prom dress.
- Bust: This is NOT your bra size number! The bust measurement is taken at the fullest part of your chest, while the bra-size number comes from the measurement just below the bustline. For dress sizing, be sure to measure across the fullest part of your bust instead of relying on your bra size.
- Waist: This is considered the smallest part of your body between bust and hips, and it typically falls about 1 inch above your belly button.
- Hips: This measurement is taken at the fullest part of your body below the waist, and it typically falls about 7 inches below the natural waistline.
- Decoding Size Charts: Since every designer uses a different set of measurements for the same size, make sure you compare your measurements to the chart for the specific prom dress you are considering. Measurements all over the chart? No worries, as it’s unusual to fall perfectly in line with a designer’s measurements for a particular dress size. Generally, it is better to size up if your measurements fall across different sizes, as it is easier for a tailor to take in a dress than to let it out.
- Cut & Fabric: The cut and fabric of the prom dress might provide more wiggle room for your measurement. For example, if a dress is stretchy, the closer it matches your measurements, the snugger the fit. If a dress is a-line shaped, the flowing skirt provides more room in the hip area with a tighter fit in the waist and bust.
Why is Checking My Prom Dress Sizing Important?
Checking your prom dress sizing before making an online clothing purchase can eliminate the need to return or exchange your dress and save you money by minimizing the amount spent on shipping fees or prom dress alterations. Remember, every designer creates its own version of sizes (whether “small” and “large,” or number sizes like 3, 5, 7 or 16, 18, 20). This means that you might wear different sizes for different dresses, for example a size 10 for your first prom dress pick, but a size 12 for another formal dress! Rather than just ordering a size you typically wear, it’s best to measure first. Also, look closely at the style and fabric of the prom dress. A loose fit in a style or stretchy fabric like spandex allows for some flexibility in the measurement. If there are intricate designs, like complex beading or rows of sequins, it may be more difficult for a tailor to alter that part of the dress, making it important to match the size closest to your measurements.
How Do I Know If My Prom Dress Is Long Enough?
When considering your prom dress length, keep your prom shoe pick in mind. Especially for long dresses, the added height of prom heels can either save you from needing the hem altered or may suddenly make the dress too short for you. Look closely at the noted details for the length of the dress you are considering. Often, there will be a measurement for the length of the dress from the top of fabric to the hemline, while there could also be what is called a “hollow to hem” measurement. This is an estimate of the length of the dress from the base of the neck (where the collarbone dips down) to the hem. Keep in mind that this estimate may vary based on body type. The curvier the figure, the more places for the prom dress fabric to hug, the more the hem will draw up. Keep body shape and prom shoes in mind when you are determining the best prom dress length for you.
How Do I Find My U.S. Dress Size?
If you are trying to determine your size for dresses sold in the United States, using an international conversion size chart can help provide a general idea of where to start. However, since each designer sizes things differently, it’s important to take your bust, waist, and hip measurements then compare them to a dress’ size chart. Remember to use the unit of measurement utilized by the size chart (for example, size charts on PromGirl are given in inches). When in doubt, contacting the company directly to work through their sizing tools is always a safe bet. Just have your measurements in hand when you contact them.
What Should I Do if I am Between Dress Sizes?
You have your bust, waist, and hip measurements, but now you’re staring at the size chart of your dream prom dress only to discover that you’re between dress sizes! Your bust measurement matches up nicely with one size, and your waist and hip measurements match up with a different size on the size chart. So, what do you do now? Order the smaller size (and risk not being about to breathe all night)? Order the larger size (more room for snacks, but you might be swimming in it)? Order a size in the middle (and hope for the best)? Panic? Well, you definitely shouldn’t panic! Most people will choose the larger size and make plans for alterations (which are easier if the dress is a bit bigger, rather than smaller). Want to minimize those alterations? If so, it’s time to consider a few other very important details in addition to your bust, waist, and hip measurements that will help you decide which dress size to order. All of these can affect the way a dress will fit your figure:
- The Style of the Dress
- Where the Waistline Falls on the Dress
- The Fabric (Does it Stretch or Not?)
- Body Type and Shape
Dress Style and Dress Fit: What Size Should I Order?
While it’s always important to start with the dress size chart when selecting which size you should order, you’ll want to consider the style of the dress too. The figure-hugging styles, like sheath prom dresses or mermaid prom dresses, call for a close match of your measurements to those listed in the size chart, since the fit is naturally snug. A ball-gown-style prom dress, on the other hand, has a loose-fitting feature (that gloriously poofy skirt!), so you have a little wiggle room (literally) when it comes to your hip measurements. Instead of needing a close match of your hip measurements to those listed in the size chart, you could go for a near-match for this type of style. Check out a breakdown of some popular prom dress styles and how their features affect dress fit in the Styles section of the Prom Guide.
Which Dress Styles Are Best for My Body Type?
To discover which dress styles flatter your figure best, it helps to start with learning the common body types and choosing the ones that best describe you. Are you apple-shaped, pear-shaped, busty, hourglass-shaped, petite, or slender? Or like most people, perhaps you are a combination of two or three? Once you’ve identified which body type(s) best fits your shape, you’ll want to explore dress styles with features that flatter your figure. While a plunging v-neckline can provide a visually elongating effect for those that want to appear taller, this chic feature may not offer enough support or coverage for another body type. Want a few pointers for highlighting your favorite features? Check out the Styles section of the Prom Guide for a breakdown of the features that flatter each body type.
Can Fabric Stretch Affect Dress Sizes?
Some fabrics are stretchy and others are less forgiving, so it’s good to keep the type of fabric of your dress in mind when it comes to selecting a prom dress size. A stretchy fabric might have you reaching for the next size down in order to get a snug fit, if that’s your preference. On the other hand, a fabric with a stiff, structured shape, like satin, is less forgiving and might have you choosing the next size up to allow for some wiggle room. For more information on fabric stretch, check out this section of the Prom Guide.
Can My Prom Dress Be Altered?
When you’re totally in love with the prom dress you bought, but it doesn’t quite fit just right, what’s a girl to do? Have it altered, right? Well, if alterations is a solution that crosses your mind, there are some things that you’ll want to consider first. Not all prom dresses can be altered unfortunately, and the cost for alterations can vary greatly depending upon the style of the dress and how much work needs to be done. By doing some planning in advance, you’ll be able to determine if alterations are possible, if the cost falls within your budget, and whether or not you have enough time before your prom to get them done! For a breakdown of tips and tricks for prom dress alterations, check out the alterations section of the Prom Guide.