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Just because you're a bigger girl doesn't mean you can't look fabulously awe-inspiring when attending a black-tie wedding or red carpet movie premiere. So if receiving an invitation to an occasion that requires formal dress sends your pulse racing with anxiety, do not fret. As long as you follow some simple guidelines and use stylish celebrities who aren't your typical "skinny mini" as fashion references, you'll find that you actually have plenty of dress options to choose from. You'll see how others aren't even noticing your extra pounds -- they'll just be taking in how completely radiant you look.
A Ruched Silk Gown
Ruching is a prime detail that will be great at flattering your figure, particularly when it comes to those areas you want "held in" as much as possible. With some fabric gathering up in the torso and a slightly flared A-line skirt, your silhouette will look as long and lean as ever. Consider Oscar winner Mo'Nique at the 2010 Academy Awards, where she wore a slinky, royal blue gown with criss-cross ruching all around the torso and derriere and a free-flowing skirt that fell from the hip down to the ground. The vivid color showed us her personality (she's no wallflower), and her beaming smile in all those photographs exudes enormous confidence -- an accessory you should consider owning, as it never goes out of style.
An Embellished Mermaid
No one says you must cover up those curves. The key is to find a body-hugging dress in a fabric or style that sucks and tucks. Whether it's with extensive ruching or a corset sewn into the bodice, keeping everything intact (just make sure you can breathe and sit down properly) is important in maintaining a feminine figure. Plus-size supermodel Crystal Renn is definitely not your standard size zero, and she showed us her stunning hourglass shape on the runway at the Jean-Paul Gaultier Spring 2006 show, wearing a slightly-off-the-shoulder, sleeveless nude all-around gathered dress that flared glamorously from the knees. With bright flowers trailing from her right shoulder down to her toes, all you notice is how beautiful she looks; the embellishment hides and distracts from any potential bumps or bulges.
A Quirk and Sleeves
Want to wow the crowd? Choose a vibrant color that works with your skin tone, whether it's emerald green, deep eggplant or burnt orange. If you're on your way to a super formal affair, try a floor-length gown with accents that works strategically with certain areas of your body. For example, Oprah Winfrey wore a bright red gown on the cover of the December 2009 issue of "O, The Oprah Magazine." The dress had a full skirt, fabric puff on one shoulder, longer sleeves, a cinched-in waist and a delicately low neckline. The little shoulder quirk distracts, the sleeves cover up arms you may want hidden and the bright color works to impress. It's all about balance and distraction when it comes to minimizing size and maximizing assets.
A Cap-Sleeved Tulip Dress
We all know black is flattering, but to keep your look from being boring, try it in a fabric with a bit of sheen to it. And go for something a bit more whimsical, like a dress with a knee-length tulip skirt to disguise extra weight carried in the hips and thighs (fantastic for pear shapes), and low-cut to show off that décolletage. Go chic like America Ferrera at "The Late Show With David Letterman" in 2008. She wore a knee-length, crepe-silk black tulip skirt dress with a cinched-in waist and conservative cap sleeves. With a deep neckline and details like piping and buttons, the dress was unique and age-appropriate for Ferrera. Her peep-toe stiletto pumps lengthened her shapely legs, showing off those athletic calves. You gotta work with what you got!