Style + Ask The Edit

Ask Belle: Dresses for Broad Shoulders

Hi Belle!

I have a bit of a fashion dilemma. I’m attending the wedding of an old high school friend over Memorial day weekend and I am already getting antsy over finding a proper outfit.  Not only will I need to consider that the ceremony will take place in a church, but also the heat/humidity that will surely be upon us by the end of May, as well as my unique wardrobe conundrum. I do not look good in strapless dresses. I am a size 2/4 and have very broad shoulders/back (I was a swimmer in college) and a small bust, my shape just does not work in a strapless. Unfortunately it seems that everywhere I look, strapless dresses abound. And while a halter might be slightly more flattering the style just seems so outdated.  Additionally, my boyfriend and I are roughly the same height. While I’ve had over a year to get past this and have picked out many lovely flats and cute kitten heels, I’m concerned about finding a pair that won’t make me feel frumpy at a wedding.

Please help!

Appreciate everything you do, Sarah

I’ve mentioned this before, but I am a huge fan of Rent the Runway.  The company allows you to rent a dress for a very reasonable fee and then return it after your event.  They also allow an amazing amount of flexibility if you need to order a different size, you want to order two different dresses to try and return the other one, or your dress doesn’t fit.  I have had great luck with this company and they have great customer service.  

But the primary reason I order instead of buy (beyond cost) is that RTR has a great selection of dresses.  They have more styles, colors and designers than you will find in most stores.  And that variety keeps me coming back time and again.  Plus, I am a Hill Staffer who can only afford to rent Herve Leger not buy Herve Leger.

Here are three dresses from the RTR collection that could look wonderful on you, but there were at least a dozen more that I thought about including.

Alice + Olivia Drapey Panel Dress (Rental Fee $50)

I have never been a big fan of the halter neckline, but there are more “halter” styles available than the traditional deep-V halter.  This racerback halter with spaghetti straps and scoop neckline is a more modern way to wear the halter style.  The drapey, string back should also accommodate your broader shoulders and the deep neckline should emphasize whatever cleavage you can muster. 

LaRok Sheer Impact Dress (Rental Fee $50)

I don’t know if you can get the back of this dress zipped or not, but racerback styles look great on broad shoulders.  I also love a sheer neckline for adding a touch of femininity to basic black.  And the body conscious dress is so hot right now that this dress is seriously on trend.

Yigal Azrouel Cross Your Heart (Rental Fee $100)

Like the first dress, this dress is a halter but it is not a traditional halter.  This style should give you good movement in the shoulders and also flatter your smaller bust.  Lastly, the teal color would be great for a spring or summer wedding.  Now, onto the shoes.

Lucie Kitten Heels (J.Crew, $99)

I once had a boyfriend who was my height so I understand the Boyfriend Shoe Conundrum.  I recommend choosing the kitten heels over the flats because they are a little bit more feminine.  I like these metallic kittens from J.Crew.  If these aren’t for you, you could also try a low-heel wedge.

We all have body issues that we need to camouflage in order to look our best.  I have saddlebags, Miss M has shoulders, and the list goes on.  But if you know what styles and necklines look most flattering on you, then this task becomes infinitely simpler.   

And if you rent the dress and doesn’t work, you can return it for free and not be stuck holding the bag.  Because there is nothing worse than watching an impulse purchase slowly wilt in the back of your closet.


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  1. EAC says:

    Belle, I love ya girl. But, whoa, seriously? None of these would be appropriate in a church. They’d be banging in a club, but I think you might need to re-consider your suggestions.

    April 14, 2010/Reply
  2. Danielle says:

    I love these dresses, but would feel so uncomfortable wearing backless dresses to a wedding! Church or no church…

    April 14, 2010/Reply
  3. Belle says:

    I read over the part about the church and didn’t catch it. The black one would be appropriate in a church. You would need to add a jacket over either of the other two, I would say tuxedo jacket, rolled sleeves

    Or if you want something more church appropriate, this dress has a racerback and scoop neck but should still cover it..

    April 14, 2010/Reply
  4. Kristin says:

    Those shoes are adorable! As someone who is super klutzy and actually tore a ligament by falling off her stilettos (don’t ask), I’m always on the lookout for dressy shoes with shorter heels.

    April 14, 2010/Reply