Pretty, Striking or Cute?


While the perfect descriptor of a dress, the word “pretty” is overused.

“That’s a pretty dress” I overheard years ago at a party. I turned around to discover that it was said to a woman in a one-shoulder bronze gown worn with a thick encrusted cuff bracelet. While she looked stunning, “pretty” was entirely the wrong word.


It was at this moment that I thought that it would help my clients working on their wardrobes if they had vocabulary for what they were looking for.

So, here is a cheat sheet on the most common styles of dresses, and some ways to articulate them.


Elongates the body, with an uninterrupted line: the dress that incorporates draping and gathering, inspired by Grecian style.


Perky and crisp: the dress with a Peter Pan Collar, piped seams or a bow on the belt.


Simple lines, uncomplicated, pleasing to the eye, and balanced in line, in a solid or mid-contrast print.


An old world feeling, featuring characteristics of styling or fabric from another era, such as a long velvet gown, or a bustle effect.


Possessing a theatrical quality, such as a bell sleeve, one-shoulder or an asymmetrical hem.


Minimalist style, unadorned and architectural or a simple shape featuring a high contrast graphic print.


Utilizing elements of cultures other than your own, such as Balinese prints, South American fabrics, or Indian beadwork.

Which dress are you shopping for?