Cocktail Dress Fashion Trends

From circle skirts to handkerchief hemlines, the hottest cocktail dresses are fun, frothy and flirty. Here's how they shape up on petites.

Frothy.Playful.Candy-colored.Cocktail dresses have been getting more and more fun in the last couple years.This season is particularly exciting as big circle skirts make a roaring comeback.These flirty, frilly party dresses are flattering to almost any figure.Of course, there's an art to wearing any new fashion, particularly if you're not model tall.Here's how some of the hottest trends shape up on petites.

Halter Top Necklines.Popular and still increasing in popularity, and it's easy to see why.Halter tops flatter the woman who is petite on top.The diagonal strap running from breastline to neck divides the shoulders and makes them appear broader.This balances out the figure, making the waist look smaller and the neck more swan-like.And the traditional v-cut d├ęcolletage attracts attention to the bust.For this flattering, sexy trend, try:Cynthia Rowley, BCBG Max Azria, Shoshanna, Marc by Marc Jacobs.

Asymmetrical hemlines.Handkerchief and jagged hemlines are back in fashion with a vengeance.Although these hemlines can look fresh and new, they can also make the legs look shorter.Petites should avoid most mid-calf skirt lengths, and this includes those with asymmetrical hems. The severely jagged skirts break up the line of the leg and make short legs look even shorter.To wear this style, choose instead those hems with less severe jags, where the highest and lowest parts of the hemline are no more than a couple inches apart.Choose hemlines that are miniskirt length or knee-length.Another type of asymmetrical hemline is the diagonal cut, where the skirt is miniskirt length level on one leg and knee-length by the time it hits the other.But be aware that the diagonal line running across your thighs will tend to make them appear larger.Women who are petite on bottom can carry off this hemline.For hemlines with an edge, try:Odette Christiane, BCBG Max Azria, Donna Ricco.

Flowing skirts.In chiffon, silk or even fine cotton, flowing fabrics are showing up everywhere this season, particularly in floral prints and sherbet-hued solids.They are fun and ethereal, but exercise good judgment!Empire-waisted baby doll dresses can overwhelm petite women and make them look like grade-schoolers.Solid color, jagged chiffon skirts can too easily look like ice skating dresses.The more form-fitted, printed chiffons are a great way to enjoy the look without being overwhelmed by yards of fabric.For dresses that flow, try:BCBG Max Azria, Betsey Johnson, Jil Stuart.

Belts.Cocktail dresses with belts, particularly wide ribbon, are a great way to add sharp detailing to a simple dress.The empire waist belts are flattering to women who are petite on top.Their sixties vibe can be quite chic on the dresses of today.Waist-level ribbon belts define the top from the skirt and are most flattering to women with small waists.But remember that in either case, a horizontal line across the dress will break up the elongated line of the body.To avoid this, look for belts that are close in color or tone to the dress. Or, consider changing the belt that comes with the dress to a ribbon of a different color.If you like the ribbon belt look but your dress is beltless, you can even add a ribbon of your own choosing to a new or an old dress.For the sharpest way to finish off a dress, try:Tracy Reese, Anne Klein, Anna Sui.

Added Pieces of Fabric.Loose strips of fabric and ribbon have been appearing all over dresses this season, hanging from the waist, shoulders, or d├ęcolletage.Petites should be cautious with this trend.Although petite women can add bulk without looking heavier, they can also easily be overshadowed by particularly ornate clothing.So stay away from the bulky curtain pulls hanging from the bust. Instead look for the versions that use small wisps of chiffon or slender ribbons to create the same effect.For that extra movement, try:Tracy & Michael, Trina Turk.

Party dresses.If you like romance, this is one of the best trends out there.Big fluffy circle skirts are showing up everywhere.They're fun, and what's even better, flattering to almost everyone.And the patterns this time around are not just for those who like their dresses lacy and frothy.They're also appearing in bold modern prints that will satisfy even the most devoted minimalist.The party dresses that have form-fitting tops, full skirts, and clean lines will look the best on petites.However, petites should be cautious of are ones that are extremely girly.If it's white and lacy and laden with pink sweetheart roses, it may make the petite woman look like she's off to her 8th birthday party.Other than that, this is a fabulous style for the petite woman who wants a kicky, flirty, fun dress.For flirtatious fun, try:Betsey Johnson, A.B.S., Kay Unger, Cynthia Steffe.

Sheaths.If the full circle skirt is not quite you, you're still in luck, because sheaths are going strong this spring. The hottest ones are textured or brocaded, halter top or strapless.Textured, solid color dresses can be highly flattering to the petite woman, as they elongate while still adding interest.For sharp sheaths, try:Nicole Miller, Tracy Reese, Theory.

Mixed Textures.This is one of the biggest trends everywhere in the design industry.It is a new way to add interest while keeping the clean, unified look of a solid color.Detailed embroidery, beading, and metallic threads are adorning cocktail dresses of all shapes.A frock can still have simple clean flattering lines but be made more interesting with decorative beading, or with the subtle shimmer of touches of golden thread. Designers are also creating stunning dresses by mixing fabrics that are all the same color.This is a great way to keep the flattering solid color while still having interest in the dress.For subtle, touchable dresses, try:Nanette Lepore, Maggy London, Laundry by Shelli Segal.

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