How to Style a Maxi Dress if You Are Plus Size

plus size woman wearing a colorful maxi dress
Wearing a maxi dress when you are a plus size woman doesn't have to be a headache. These styles show you the best way to style your maxi dress.

Maxi dresses are amazing for plus-size women because they do an excellent job of highlighting their assets and concealing their flaws. If you have any doubts about that, check out the hundreds of Ashley Graham’s pictures rocking various maxi dresses. Granted, she’s a top model who will look good in anything but so can you with the right styling tips.

Nothing says feminine, comfortable, and versatile like a maxi dress, plus it never goes out of style. Unfortunately, this gorgeous piece of clothing is associated with thin and tall women strutting on the beach with their blonde manes and gold sandals.

Contrary to popular belief, maxi dresses work better for plus-size women because they accentuate curves, make you look taller and thinner, and hide any imperfections you may have.

All you need to do is learn how to pick the right maxi dress and style it. Luckily, our top stylists have come together to give their educated tips and tricks on how to wear a maxi dress as a plus-size woman.

Woman with a white maxi floral maxi dress

Pick the Right Style

Styling a maxi dress starts with picking the right one for your body. For plus-size or curvy women, we recommend a dress with a unique appearance or something unusual like a side slit or buttons. Standard maxi dresses tend to have too much fabric that can overwhelm a curvy body, especially if she’s also a short girl.

Wrap dresses with a V-neck and a waist belt also accentuate a woman’s curves better and bring attention to all the right places. If you can get a buttoned-up dress with or without a cinched waist, that will do too. I also like a dress with pockets because it has a way of framing your midsection and making you feel more confident.

Style aside, choose dark, solid hues because they make you look taller and slimmer. Some patterns and prints are okay if you need variety, but they should be toned down, small and vertical. As for fabric, go for flowy fabrics such as chiffon, soft jersey, and georgette because they skim the body and flatter the curves sensually instead of framing them. Remember, you want a dress that hugs your body nicely, so stay away from anything that feels swampy or overwhelming.

Now that we’ve that out of the way, let’s check out some styling tips.

Own it

You are not petite. You take out space – so you may as well own it. Good make-up, a colorful dress, large accessorize and a statement dress will turn heads.

Belt up

As a curvy woman, a belt is your best friend. It defines your waist, making you look shapely and elegant. Again, a wrap maxi dress with its own waist belt is best, but you can also use your own belt. Make sure it’s a small toned down belt because we want attention to your hips and bust, not your waist. You can match the belt with your purse, bold jewelry, and some soft heels and you are good to go.

One of the best and most unusual ways to use a belt on a maxi is to drape a bold-colored scarf on your shoulders and let it drop to your thighs. Put a statement belt over it, and it will look like a kimono. The secret to this is to use a wider and longer scarf and go with a bold contrasting color like red if your dress is black. Match this with heels or pumps and a Chanel-like bag and head out.

Rock Chic Look

The good thing about maxi dresses is that you can layer them for style or weather, and you can transform from elegant to rock chic with just a few changes. For this look, put on a matching camisole or top underneath the dress and then don some biker boots and a jacket. A black biker jacket with a bright-colored collar (preferably a wool collar) softens things up, so you still look like a girl. Match this with a little black purse and rock away.

Casual Look

If you are wearing a maxi dress to the supermarket or a stroll, wear some minimal sneakers, a waist-level denim jacket, and a cross-body purse. This is one of the maxi dress styles that looks good on any body type and it’s cool. The denim jacket brings color to your face, defines your shape and makes the whole look feel cool.

For curvy women, however, make sure your dress has a slit, or it’s at least a buttoned-up dress with the bottom part left open. A fully round maxi dress with denim only looks good on tall slim girls.

Layer Up with a Sweater

If the weather is chilly and you want to layer up your maxi dress for some warmth, we recommend a sweater over jackets and coats anytime. Again, you want to avoid overwhelming your body with fabric, so more is less in this case. A chunky sweater over the dress and some sneakers or sandals are a great option for warmth.

You can also wear a little buttoned-up sweater with closed or open buttons. One look we stole from Lizzo is wearing a bolero sweater or jacket with the dress, especially if your maxi dress has pockets. Put on a boho necklace with this look and don some heels or sandals. This is a great look for flowered or patterned maxi dresses because the bolero will tone down the excitement and give you shape. We also recommend it if your maxi dress doesn’t have a slit or open buttons.

Mix and Match

Another great thing about maxi dresses on curvy women is that you don’t need to wear them with any other item of clothing. The dress on its own, combined with a nice purse, shoes and jewelry, is plenty. If you want to jazz things up a bit, choose accessories that don’t match the dress. For example, go with pink or red shoes and a bag if you are wearing a black and white maxi dress.

You also don’t have to match the shoes and the bag; one can be red and the other one gold. These touches of color will bring some excitement to the outfit without overwhelming you with fabric.

Here are the takeaways on how to style a maxi dress as a plus-size woman:

  • Belts are your friend, and so are slits.
  • Choose heels over sandals to elongate your body.
  • Do not overwhelm your body with fabric and patterns.
  • Choose well-fitting items over a baggy option.

All said and done though, style is about comfort. If you prefer to wear sandals over heels, don’t let the advice here stop you. These are only guidelines to help you style the maxi dress as best as you can so it can become one of your favorite staples.

Can a plus-size woman wear a maxi dress?

Contrary to popular belief, maxi dresses are perfect for plus-size ladies because they elongate your frame and consequently make it look thinner. The secret is to find a maxi dress that fits snugly, has an empire waist or defined structure, and a flattering design such as wrap dresses and slits.

How do you style a plus-size maxi dress?

The number one rule when styling a plus-size maxi dress is to keep it simple and minimal. Use a thin belt and a clutch bag for accessories, rock on some high heels for elongation, and keep the jewelry to a minimum. The less stuff you can use, the better to avoid having an overwhelming look.

Lior Shapiro

I love clothes with pockets and dresses, and I think any woman can pull off a good maxi dress.
I believe women's clothes with pockets make the world a better place.