Choose your perfect summer dress

The shops are awash in dresses in every shape and size - the problem is choosing a shape to flatter your figure. Follow Caryn Franklin's advice and avoid expensive mistakes!

How to pick the perfect summer dress

The shops are awash in dresses to suit every shape and size - the problem is choosing a shape to flatter your figure. Follow Caryn Franklin's advice and avoid expensive mistakes!

"If you make one purchase in the next few weeks to perk up your summer wardrobe let it be a sizzling summer dress. Choosing the right shape for you will be a key to finding a garment that is as versatile when styled with your jeans and flat pumps as it is with heels. Styling questions and body shape queries are among the things I discuss on my own website but lets talk about your summer dress right now.

"It was Diane Von Furstenberg who made the iconic wrap dress in the 70s and then re-instated it amongst our affections more recently. She is certainly leading the way with her colourful geometric prints for this season. But with so many shapes to choose from which one is your best buy if the budget is tight? Read on for my top tips..."

The shift dress

"Ok so the Sixties-inspired shift dress is popular this season but don't feel you have to opt for a style that may not suit. Just because fashion editors are loving it on the young thin models that graced the catwalk last September when the spring and summer lines were launched, doesn't mean it's the one for you! If you are slender, standard shaped or tall wear this and enjoy over jeans, leggings or bare legs. If you top heavy it will make your body look boxy."

The wrap dress

"Yes it is still in the shops several seasons after it was relaunched and do you know why? Because it is so universally flattering and retailers don't want to let go of a good thing when they see one. Slender and curvaceous alike can enjoy this style however if you have a lavishly proportioned bust, wear a Lycra vest top underneath for security and coverage. This is one of the best dresses I know for creating a sophisticated and feminine silhouette and can work just as well in a formal setting like work as it can in party mode. PS. If it is a soft jersey type and you feel too revealing around the tummy then wear your Spanx pants for a smoother line."

The smock dress

"Shown on the catwalk in a variety of fabrics, your smock dress needs to be in soft material that has some movement this way it will not stick out from the bust and look like strange costume but rather follow the shape of your body. That said it’s one to be avoided if you have a top-heavy shape since it will add volume to the area where you least need it. This look is great for apple shapes looking for coverage around the tummy area and slender bodies looking for fullness."

The empire line dress

"My personal favourite for creating gentle definition and femininity around the upper body. I have had great success with empire lines when I’ve been styling women of all different body shapes. With the waistline raised up to under the bust it will always create the effect of elongating the legs and make the body appear taller – so great for petites. It will also work well for top heavy and curvy shapes to flatter the bustline and if it has plenty of fabric in it is great for apple shapes and pear shapes. Proceed with caution however if you are a tall or willowy type – it will just make you look longer and taller."

The maxi dress

"This one is just great for coverage. You can look feminine and well turned out without having to make a great effort to co-ordinate various separates. Choose one that has a print that adds interest to the garment and is also the right weight for your body – e.g. small repeat prints for petite and willowy frames, and large voluptuous print for taller and fuller frames. Accessorise with large frames, wedges or flats and you’re sorted. PS Petites: choose a style that allows for some ankle and foot showing this way you will not look like the dress is swamping your small frame."

The Fifties-influenced waisted dress with flared skirt

"Hurrah for another style of dress that is universally flattering. Designed in a time when curvaceous women were idealised by all, a dress that has fit around the waist a flare at the skirt will always make the waist look smaller and more dainty. The shaping round the bust and the fuller skirt will also create a wonderful silhouette making this great style for any woman who enjoys being female. Best accessorised with a small chunky heel or wedge to give it a contemporary feel."

For fashion advice from Caryn on clothing and your body shape visit