Sometimes a busty woman can wander into a store and walk out with an amazing dress on the first try, but how often has that been your experience? Instead, I recommend taking a strategic approach that is more likely to give you multiple bust-friendly formal dresses. That way, instead of despairing over your body, you’ll be despairing that you can only choose one!
For starters, as I wrote in my first post on the subject, think of a brand that has worked for you in the past. It’s even better if large-busted celebrities have been seen wearing it, and best of all if it’s in your budget. If you order a couple of dresses and one of them is The One, you’re good to go.
If not, do a little more research. Visit
- full bust clothing websites like Saint Bustier, Bravissimo and Miriam Baker;
- retro and pinup sites like the ones we list on our Clothing for Big Busts page (be sure to search for anything that Leah has already reviewed on Hourglassy, and remember–you don’t HAVE to look or dress like a pinup to get away with these styles in a contemporary setting);
- our Bridal and Evening Wear category;
- Yes to Dresses for D Cups and Up on Pinterest (we promise to start updating it, and we’d love to include anything you share with us).
I recommend creating a dream list and a back-up list, and if the return policies are good, order something from both lists right away for peace of mind.
Finally, go down the rabbit hole of Rent the Runway. You can spend FOREVER on that site. Did you know they actually have a “Full Bust” body type filter? Unfortunately, it’s pretty useless by itself, but combined with neckline, sleeve and designer filters, it gives you a decent starting point. The biggest strength of RTR is the hundreds of selfies with reviews!
That’s how I discovered the Nicole Miller Garden Bouquet dress. It had everything that I told you I was looking for: light and bright and form-fitting. But would it work for me?
32D, Size 6
32F, Size 2
34D, Size 4
34D, Size 6, 135 lbs (and not even wearing a bra in this photo–a VERY good sign)
Bra 34DD, Size 8
34DDD/E size 8
36D, Size 8 but said she could have worn 6 instead
38D, Size 10 (but usually wears 14 and didn’t have time to exchange it)
I’m sorry to leave you hanging, but in the end, I didn’t order this dress because the holiday weekend required an 8-day rental period that eliminated any savings for me (it was less than the retail price of $440, but I can’t justify paying over $100 for something I can’t keep). If I had ordered the dress, it would have been in size 10 or 12 based on how other Nicole Miller dresses have fit me and how my weight compares to the reviewers.
However, the story doesn’t end there. This find opened up two more possibilities. First, I actually found this dress in size 12 on eBay for around $175. Second, Stop Staring makes a Billion Dollar Baby dress in watercolor that has pretty much the same effect–minus the strapless bra requirement!
At the time, all sizes were available. Currently, only size medium is. Because the website says the fabric only has slight stretch, I would order it in at least an XL. Ultimately, I didn’t order the eBay Nicole Miller or the Stop Staring watercolor because I didn’t want to deal with returns, but I had plenty of time to change my mind if I needed to. I didn’t need to because I found another dress on RTR, and its twin on Ebay, for just $30. I’ll write about that next!