Why Do I Look Fatter In A Dress (And What You Can Do About It!)

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Why Do I Look Fatter In A Dress

For me, planning my outfit is something I really look forward to for big events. I have spent hours on Pinterest and shopping websites looking for that perfect dress for something like a jazz cruise, a big work dinner, or even someone else’s wedding.

So, you can imagine how disappointing it is when you order something online and then it doesn’t end up looking the same on your body as it did in the photos.

It definitely leaves someone wondering, “Why do I look fatter in a dress?”

The reason that one person looks fatter in a dress than someone else depends on body shape, the pattern or cut of the dress, the size of the dress, the shapewear or undergarments beneath the dress, lighting, and the features of your body being highlighted. These things affect how a garment looks on your body. 

Below, I’ll talk about the role that all these things play in how a dress looks on your body, and at the end, I’ll give extra tips on choosing a dress that flatters your unique body shape.

Reason 1: The Pattern Or Cut Of The Dress

The shape or cut of the dress really has the ability to change how it looks on different bodies. This is the reason when you’re trying to feel most confident, the best place to start is what dresses are going to look best on your body type. I’m going to give you a few tips on how to choose a dress for your particular body shape a little later in the article.

That being said, how tight or loose a dress is in certain areas also plays a big role in how it flatters (or doesn’t flatter) the shape of your body. A dress that is too tight really puts everything on display, while a dress that is too big is going to look baggy and frumpy.

The best thing to do is try to highlight those more flattering areas (like your waist) while covering up areas you don’t necessarily love. This changes depending on the individual, their body type, and which features of their body they love.

For example, I try to highlight my waist because it’s the thinnest area of my body, but also tend to choose dresses that flow over the tummy area so I can hide my FUPA. Other ladies have no problem with their tummy, and that’s okay, too! It’s about doing what works best for you as an individual.

Why Do I Look Fatter In A Dress If It’s Tight?

The reason you look fatter in a dress that clings to your skin or that is too tight is that there isn’t a lot of room to hide any areas like your FUPA. Plus, fabric that clings to the skin is likely to show off everything, and while there is nothing wrong with that, some women feel more comfortable in dresses that are more suited to their body type.

Above all, I’d like to mention that your FUPA or the shape of your body is NOT ruining your dress. There is nothing wrong with being a curvy woman in a tight dress, even if you have a tummy. If you would like tips on how to dress to hide a FUPA, then you can find some here.

How Certain Patterns And Colors Affect How A Dress Looks

The colors and pattern of a dress also affect how it looks on your body. Bigger people are often taught to avoid patterns and bright colors because they are loud and draw attention. Personally, I think that’s bad advice and that nobody should feel like they aren’t supposed to take up space.

The one thing I do caution against is opting for patterned dresses (like something with flowers) that are too tight in certain areas of your body. Something that is too tight is going to stretch the pattern and distort it, particularly if the fabric stretches.

Reason 2: The Size Of The Dress

For people of any body shape, having the wrong size of clothing is unflattering. Clothing that is too tight squeezes the skin, creates lumps and bulges where there typically aren’t any, and is just uncomfortable to wear.

By contrast, something too loose also isn’t flattering on a lot of body types. Anything that is too baggy is going to add volume to your figure in all the wrong ways.

With dresses, sizing is really important. As with all women’s clothing, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to sizing. Instead of relying on numbers (because who really knows if there’s a difference between sizes like XL and 1X or XXL and 2X), it’s better to know your actual measurements and use size guides provided by the manufacturer.

Here’s a video with some tips on how to take your measurements, for the ladies who aren’t sure where to put the tape measure.

Reason 3: You Have The Wrong Shapewear Or Undergarments On

Shapewear is meant to accentuate your curves, either by smoothing lumps and bumps for a smoother silhouette or helping compress the body in certain areas and create an hourglass figure. It comes in all shapes and sizes and with different levels of compression, so there are a lot of options for perfecting your look.

Like shapewear can help complete your look, it also can ruin it. You might be thinking, “how can shapewear ruin my look?” Well, when shapewear doesn’t fit well, it can end up squeezing your body in all the wrong ways.

This happens pretty commonly with shapewear that is too tight. Instead of smoothing problem areas, it pushes extra skin and fat up, down, or to the side, and it’s going to create bulges. For example, a waist trainer that’s too tight will cause back fat in a dress.

Even if you aren’t wearing shapewear, wearing a bra that is too tight creates back fat by squeezing loose skin and making your back look lumpy. Additionally, underwear that is too tight is likely to roll down or create the same bulges in your hips and waist.

In conclusion, you’re undergarments really do matter! And, if you want to see some of my top picks for best underwear to hide a FUPA, be sure to check out this article.

Reason 4: Bad Lighting

When a model takes a picture in a dress, there is makeup, lighting, angles-basically a whole production- going on behind the scenes. This is a lot of work to get a good photo of a dress and that means that it doesn’t always look the same on another plus-size body.

Plus, there’s no guarantee that the model in the photo isn’t wearing shapewear or having their photos retouched, which is pretty common in the fashion industry.

Even the mirror that you’re checking yourself out in can play a role in what you are seeing. People really do look different in different mirrors.

Things like the position of the mirror relative to your body, the angle of the mirror, the materials the mirror is made out of, and even how old the mirror is can all play a role. This is the reason certain clothes might look different in dressing room mirrors than when you get them home and put them on again.

Reason 5: You Aren’t Highlighting Your Positives

You cannot always expect a dress to look the same on your body as it does on someone else’s. This is especially true if they don’t share the same body type or are a different height.

When it comes down to it, the best way to feel confident in a dress (instead of fat) is to highlight all your best areas. If you have a curvy backside and hips, don’t be afraid to flaunt that. If you love your long legs, don’t be afraid to opt for a shorter dress that is going to highlight that feature.

On the opposite end, it’s not a bad idea to hide those areas of your body that you don’t necessarily love. For me, that is areas like my jiggly arm fat that always photographs horribly and my FUPA. Accentuating all the best features of your body (while hiding whatever you consider your problem areas) will go a long way in making you feel confident and look good in a dress.

What To Do If You Look Fat In A Dress

Aside from the tips I’ve given so far, people who want to feel the most confident, beautiful, and stunning version of themselves should start by choosing a dress that suits their body type. This really changes based on your individual shape, your height, and other features.

I’m going to give some guidelines for dressing your body type, but keep in mind that variations of these body types exist, too! Don’t be afraid to trust your own ideas about what looks great on your body.

Rectangular (Athletic)

People with this body type have shoulders that are about the same width as their hips and waist. The best way to dress for this body type is to create the illusion of a waist.

So, dresses that are cinched in at the waist and flow out over the hips work well, as do dresses that have a waist belt. Avoid dresses that are too vertical, as they don’t add much shape to the body and make you look flatter.


The pear shaped body type, also called the triangle body type, describes bodies with a narrower upper half in the shoulders and bust and a wider bottom half. To create a more proportional look for pear-shaped bodies, dresses that draw more attention to the upper half of the body are best.

Prints and bright colors work well, as do sweetheart, strapless, and wider necklines. You should also avoid dresses that add volume to the bottom half, like those with especially full skirts.

Inverted Triangle

People with this body type have shoulders that are broader than their hips. A-line dresses work well for people with this body type because they don’t draw attention to the shoulders and highlight the hips and waist instead. Inverted triangle types don’t have a lot of definition here, so that’s really helpful.

Wider straps and plunging necklines should be avoided with this body type, as they make the shoulders look even broader.


The apple shaped body is characterized by its roundness and people with this body type often have a rounder tummy without a defined waist. What these people do often have, in most cases, are great legs that they can draw attention to in a dress.

A-line dresses and wrap-dresses work well for this, especially if the dress helps create a defined waist. You should also avoid dresses that are too large or make you look bigger.


People with this body type have a defined waist, as well as wider bust and hips that are about the same width. Defining the waist is a great place to start, especially if you have a tummy to go with your hourglass figure.

Empire waist dresses look great on this body type, as do those with a tighter bodice that lets you show off your figure. You should avoid dresses that are too large or shapeless, as these make all your features look bigger in all the wrong ways.

Other Tips On How To Not Look Fat In A Dress

Body shapes aside, here’s a quick summary of some other tips that were hidden through the article:

1.  Choose a dress that fits, not one that is too big or too small.

2. ALWAYS highlight your favorite features, you’ll feel more confident!

3. Be wary of the undergarments or shapewear you have on, this changes how you look, too.

4. Know that things like bad lighting and the mirror you’re looking at yourself can change how you look and don’t let that convince you that you don’t look great!

5. No matter your shape, any dress looks great when worn with confidence! Don’t let your body hold you back from being the beautiful woman you are.

Final Word

In conclusion, there are a lot of reasons you might be wondering, “Why do I look fatter in a dress than other body types?” It could be the particular style of the dress or how it fits your body. Clothes that are too loose or too tight can be unflattering.

Things like the shapewear or undergarments you are wearing, the lighting in the room, and what areas you are drawing attention to also affect your body shape. Keep all these things in mind and dress to flatter your best features- I promise you’ll end up feeling like the most confident, beautiful version of yourself!

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