How to Know If A Dress Fits Properly

How to know if a dress fits properly can feel overwhelming if you’re not sure what exactly to look for. This post is taking the guess work out of the process with 3 very simple tips to help you determine if your dress fits, or if it just won’t work for your figure.

How to Know If A Dress Fits Properly

Tip #1: Pay attention to the darts

eliza j dress-wellesley and king-@wellesleynkingIf you’re asking what a dart is, it’s the seam (most commonly from the side seam to the bust) where fabric is taken in to provide shape to the garment. When I’m trying on a dress or blouse with bust darts, I immediately pay attention to whether the darts are naturally falling in the right place.

Where they should fall, and where they do fall are often two different things, especially when I’m trying on clothing in regular sizing versus petite sizing.

You want the darts to end right at the apex of the bust (also referred to as the bust point). This article is really helpful visually to see the proper fit of the dart. For me, I’ll often easily tell that a piece of clothing doesn’t fit properly because the dart falls below my bust, instead of at the bust point. Sometimes, like with sleeveless dresses or blouses, this can be corrected easily enough by bringing the garment up at the shoulder. However, depending on whether or not the garment has sleeves or lining, this alteration can become quite pricey, especially if the sleeve has to be removed and tailored.

As an aside, if you’re large breasted and have a dress or blouse that gapes open near the armhole, this can be corrected with an adjustment to the side dart. If you have a piece you really love, consider taking it to a good tailor or dressmaker for the alteration, especially if it’s an expensive or quality garment.

Key takeaway: make sure that the bust dart properly falls at the apex of the bust.

Tip #2: Notice the shoulder seams.

eliza j dress-wellesley and king-@wellesleynkingThe shoulder seam is another indicator of whether or not the garment is too big or too small. You want the shoulder seams to hit right at the corner of your shoulder. A too-large piece of clothing will be obvious when the shoulder seam falls past the corner of your shoulder, and instead hits at the top of the upper arm.

For me, this is usually the number one indicator that a piece does not fit properly, AND if it doesn’t fit properly in the shoulder, it usually doesn’t fit anywhere else either. This is especially noticeable with blazers, so I think it’s really important to find a brand that you know nails the fit for your body type. I know that I can’t buy a blazer, bomber jacket or moto jacket unless they come in petite sizing. If they don’t, about 9 times out of 10, the fit is too large everywhere.

Key takeaway: make sure that the shoulder seam falls right at the corner of your shoulder. If it doesn’t, it’s likely that the entire garment is too large and tailoring here can be pricey.

Tip #3: Make sure the waistband hits your natural waist.

eliza j dress-wellesley and king-@wellesleynkingOn dresses where there is a defined waistline, like the one I’m wearing in today’s post, it’s important to make sure the waistband is actually hitting at the waist. Again, it’s almost a ripple effect, if you’re shoulder seams and bust darts do not fall at the proper place, odds are good that your waistband will also be hitting lower than it should.

A waistband that sits lower than your natural look can, like darts and shoulder seams, make the overall look of the dress seem too large for you. Instead, you want to ensure that the waistband hits at the smallest part of your waist, or your “natural waist.” Your natural waist is just above your belly button and right below your rib cage. (It’s where you place your hands when you’re asking your husband how he managed to dry your jeans again.)

Key takeaway: The best fit of a dress with a defined waist is at your natural waist (just above the belly button and below the rib cage).
 eliza j dress-wellesley and king-@wellesleynking eliza j dress-wellesley and king-@wellesleynking eliza j dress-wellesley and king-@wellesleynking how to know if a dress fits properly

For more style tips, click here,
or check out some of the reader favorites below.

5 Tips for Creating An Intentional Wardrobe

How to Create a Wardrobe Color Palette

9 Pairs of Shoes Every Woman Should Own

Comment Here!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. 3.10.17
    Meryl said:

    Lauren I love this dress on you! I love classic, preppy blue and white striping mixed up with black. So very striking. And I absolutely love your description of where to find your natural waist. so cute!

    • 3.10.17
      Lauren said:

      Thank you, Meryl! And yes, we had the unfortunate event of drying multiple pairs of jeans the other week. Not a good day for the Bernards! I hope you’re well, thank you for reading!

  2. 3.12.17
    Niki said:

    Three great tips for finding the perfect fit, Lauren! And that dress looks great on you! A perfect fit 😉

    • 3.12.17
      Lauren said:

      Thank you, Niki! Always the biggest compliment coming from you!

%d bloggers like this: