The Hunt: Fit and Flare Dresses

fit and flare dressesSure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

I noticed a few weeks ago that readers wanted a Hunt for fit and flare dresses, so I thought we’d round some up today! (Update: check out our 2015 roundup of fit and flare dresses for work here.) I usually consider a “fit and flare” dress to be one that is fitted from the waist up, but A-line/fluid/flouncy/full from the waist down. (Interestingly, a quick Google for “what is fit and flare” turns up lots of wedding dress results.)

I generally think of the look as being less “classic work” than a sheath dress because it tends to be popular one season and disappear almost entirely the next — so, like the flouncy skirt, if you like this style on your body type, this is a great time to stock up.

The style is often described as “curve hugging” and with words like “flirty!” which make it seem like it’s less work-appropriate, but I think all of the pictured dresses are totally work-appropriate for even the most conservative offices. Obviously, watch your skirt length and your sizing, but that’s true of everything with workwear. One bonus with this style: there are a TON of budget options — almost all of my picks are below $100!

Readers, have you gotten any great fit and flare dresses recently? What defines a great fit and flare dress for you?

Dorothy Perkins Black spot boxpleat dressWhile there are very limited sizes of this black polka dot boxpleat dress at Dorothy Perkins left, never fear: DP has a TON of styles of fit and flare dresses, from boxpleat dresses (as pictured) to Bardot dresses (which seem to all have a much wider neckline that feature the clavicle) to skater dresses and more. This particular dress stood out to me because the pattern is fun, the length pictured on the model is great (it’s 90 cm, or about 35.5″) and — hiyo! — it’s marked to $17. Use code DPSHIP50 to get free standard shipping on orders over $50. Black Spot Boxpleat Dress
Limited Sleeveless Skater DressThe Limited has had some version of a skater dress for several seasons now. (I couldn’t find a good definition of what a skater dress is, but I always think of it as being a subset of the FnF dress — usually made of a jersey fabric, without other embellishments or decoration, and often a bit on the short side.) The pictured sleeveless version looks great, is available in four colors, sizes XS-XL in regulars and petites, and is marked from $59.95 to $35.97.Another option: this cap sleeve, high-necked fit and flare dress is available in very limited sizes and colors but has nice seaming details on the front (and, alas, an exposed zipper in the back). Pictured: Sleeveless Skater Dress
London Times Cap Sleeve Keyhole Tie Fit & Flare Dress | CorporetteAs mentioned above, for some reason there are a ton of great budget options for this style, and 6pm has a ton of brands that are already affordable (Eliza J, Donna Ricco, Muse) marked down even further. I particularly like the keyhole detail on this Eliza J dress — it makes the high neckline so much more wearable. The fabric is described in the promotional copy as “lace” but to me it looks more like a summery cotton/nylon blend. I’d wear it with a shrunken blazer and a matte belt for work. It was $89, but is currently marked to $39.99 at Cap Sleeve Keyhole Tie Fit & Flare Dress
eShakti split neck cotton stripe dress | CorporetteeShakti offers a ton of fit and flare dresses — and because you can customize the measurements, sleeves, hem length, and often the neckline, this may be a great option for women who have a hard time finding fit and flare dresses off the rack. I like this cotton pinstriped option — it’s machine washable, has pockets, and looks fun and different but still professional. It’s $64.95, but take 30% off sitewide. Split Neck Cotton Stripe Dress
Donna Ricco Ottoman Textured Fit & Flare Dress | CorporetteLook, sleeves! I like the subtle texture to this ottoman knit, and while the dress fits a bit short on the model, I’d guess 38″ would be fine for most women under 5’6″. Donna Ricco has a ton of great dresses in this style; this one is $118 at Nordstrom. Ottoman Textured Fit & Flare Dress
BOSS HUGO BOSS 'Hilja' Fit & Flare DressThere are SO many affordable options in this category that I’m not sure one needs to go to a fancier version, but I do like the crispness to this navy fit and flare dress from Hugo Boss. It’s $385 at Nordstrom.Another pricey option that I love: this twill dress from Classiques Entier for $298, although the “cutaway bodice” may break that commandment of workwear: never show your bra straps. Pictured: “Hilja” Fit and Flare Dress

Like this feature? Check out other recent installments

The Hunt: Fit and Flare Dresses


  1. “Bardot dresses (which seem to all have a much wider neckline that feature the clavicle)”
    I think ‘Bardot’ refers to that wide neckline – Asos have a lot of tops and dresses with a ‘Bardot’ neckline.

  2. I LOVE fit and flare dresses. They are perfect for my pear shape.

    • Totally this. So glad you’ve done a Hunt for them, Kat.

    • As a pear myself, I am always envious of all the beautiful sheath dresses that I just cannot wear so it’s great to see these options! Love LOVE the eShaki dress! Beautiful! Very tempted….

  3. In the Pink :

    OP here. Thanks for the links, Kat.

    I have to say that if one is an hourglass there really is no way to wear a sheath. So the FnF becomes a work appropriate dress when chosen well (as with any item of clothing). Belts are often a necessary accessory with this type of dress.

    I have had good success with the “jersey knit” dresses this spring from Talbots. The Eliza Js are wonderful, but do tend to be short for work, sadly. Occasionally Boden has something. At least they are finally describing the cut of their dresses so I don’t have to hope, pay, and return when ends up being empire or a sheath on a thin model, and I’ve been taken astray by a pic of a wider skirt.

    Can we talk about a completer piece for these dresses? I have cardis (non-boyfriend length) and blazers, but its always a difficult situation.

    Hoping for other leads from readers!

    • Lefty lawyer :

      A short fitted jacket. Longer jackets look awful.

      • Ditto More :

        Yes, cropped jackets at or above the waist, or just a smidge below look best. Nothing below the hips which fights the flare.

    • Anonymous :

      Talk to me about the “hourglass” = no way to wear a sheath. I’m an hourglass (not sure of my measurements offhand, but I’m probably size 10 waist, size 16 hips/bust). Sheaths are my go-to work dress. I’m told they flatter me and that I look very professional. The midsection is a little loose relatively speaking, but not materially so – there’s a definite waistline. What keeps you from wearing them?

      • Sheaths are not impossible for an hourglass shape, but if you’re a very curvy hourglass, the dress must fit *impeccably* & that’s hard to find (unless you have an excellent tailor). Standard-issue sheath dresses can look boxy OR sausagey on curvy hourglass women.

        Fit & flare styles are easier to wear because of the defined waistline & fuller skirt. It’s the equivalent of wearing a fitted blouse & a separate skirt, but with the ease of wearing a dress.

      • Baconpancakes :

        I agree they’re actually perfectly suited to an hourglass figure. I have a 10-14 inch difference between my waist and chest/hips, and I think the sheath dresses I usually wear (I think Maggie London’s fit models must be more curvy than most, because I have 3 of those and love them) flatter me without looking absolutely va-va-voom. Fit and flare tends to make me look like a) a little girl, b) even more overweight than I am, or c) like a 1950’s housewife. None of which are what I want to go for at work!

        • I’m with Baconpancakes on this one. I’m an hourglass and sheaths are my go-to (I have one Maggy London but sounds I like I need to check out others). I like fit and flare and will check out some of these dresses, but overall they don’t suit me for work.

        • Anonymous :

          Another hourglass who wears sheaths as a staple. I do order 2 sizes up from what I need for my waist, and have the waist and underarms taken in, but then it fits me perfectly from broad shoulders down to knees and looks like it was sewn just for me.

          I like every dress featured on this post, but I wouldn’t wear a single one of them to work. They all say weekend or date to me.

      • Size 10 hourglass and I LIVE in sheath dresses at work. I don’t wear them tight, prefer them fitted with some ‘give’ .

    • a passion for fashion :

      Fit-n-flare dresses are a good use for peplum blazers because they usually fit well over the flare.

  4. White House Black Market always seems to have some reasonably priced fit-and-flare dresses in stock. I think as long as the length is appropriate, they look fine at the office. And for those of us who are shaped as pears or hourglasses (like me), they can often be way easier to fit into than sheath dresses. I can buy a fit-and-flare off the rack and have it look great. Sheath dresses require at least $50 worth of tailoring to look appropriate.

  5. Love the polka dot dress but wow – hate the styling and model’s pose for that red dress. Looks like an 80s retro gone bad.

    Question – how does eShakti work? Has anyone been pleased with the results? What happens with returns if you don’t like it?

    • I’m wearing an eShakti dress today! The custom sizing is quite easy — the site has a measurement guide, make sure to have someone else measure you for accuracy. The garment is made in India & ships in a few weeks (much faster than I thought it would). High quality for the price, they use a lot of cotton poplin w/a touch of stretch so it wears well, & interesting details are available like contrast piping. You can get very custom looks by adding / removing sleeves, changing the hemline, etc.

    • eShakti Lurver :

      eShakti is the absolute best 5ever!

    • oil in houston :

      I’ve got a few dresses, and would just say quality of the fabric is a bit hit and miss, so read the description carefully to avoid surprises

  6. Sheaths/pencil skirts also look awful on those with broad shoulders/big b$$bs and small hips. You end up looking like an exclamation mark!!! I prefer A line or fit and flare. I do not know what the big fuss is about them not being “professional” since the low necklines/high hems of many of the sheath dresses out there hardly scream professional to me!

    • eShakti Lurver :

      What are you talking about? I have broad shoulders, upper body muscle mass, and a small pelvis. I look fresh to death in pencil skirts.

      • Ditto! I love pencils and sheaths and I have huge boob/chest area (so much so that it’s not my pooch that defines my size, but my boobs), swimmer shoulders and relatively small hips.

        • Ditto More :

          I am an IT shape with [email protected]@bs and not too big hips and I think ITs, pears, and hourglasses can all wear both sheaths and F&F dresses as long as either cut is not too exaggerated and/or with a bit of tailoring. I have several F&Fs that I’ve had the hips tailored so they wouldn’t be 50’s housewife or frumpy. I think you just have to try on anything that you like on the hanger without any preconceived thoughts about the cut and how it might look on you. I’ve been pleasantly surprised many times with how well a dress that shouldn’t have fit if you followed the conventional wisdom actually did fit when tried on. And if it’s an absolute steal but just a little off, the tailoring cost to make it perfect is still in my comfort zone as a bargain hunter. Today I wore a fit and flare I got in a thrift store that cost me, with alterations, about $25 and it looked much better.
          BTW, White House Black Market rules!

          • I’ve never heard of an IT shape before and the google only brought up children’s toys. Can you fill me in? I’m curious now!

          • Inverted Triangle shape.

          • IT = inverted triangle. A bit like an hourglass but without the hippage.

  7. I LOVE fit and flare dress because I think they look both professional and feminine. I also think they flatter an hourglass figure, they make my waist look tiny…but they do need to be properly fitted over the bust to avoid flattening the boobs.

  8. Johanna M :

    Love this post. I’m trying to incorporate more dresses and skirts into my work wardrobe. Which isn’t a very fun process because every time I wear a skirt someone comments on me “dressing up.”

  9. I also tend to feel more polished in sheath vs FnF dresses, but I do wear a fair number of both. For a cheap version, I have this one from H&M (I think) and it’s pretty good once you switch out the belt. It comes in gray, black and navy and recently comes w/ matching blazers. And it’s machine washable. I’ve had it for about 2 years and it still looks good.

    • And while I was looking for that one, I also saw this one & am now going to be popping in to an H&M on my way home. It might be a bit too flared IRL, but I love the color.

      • TO Lawyer :

        I love this one too! I’ve contemplated it a couple times but don’t know if I can get away with wearing that much pink to the office!

        I also love the dress you linked to above – I haven’t seen that at any H&M but I’m definitely going to be on the hunt. I’ve been looking for a nice charcoal grey dress in suiting material,

  10. Diana Barry :

    The F&F dresses I’ve seen this season are decidedly going out and not work dresses – they are all too short for work. But very cute!

  11. Very glad to see these types of dresses being designed and styled for the workplace, as sheaths and pencil skirts can be VERY hard to wear if you’re an hourglass with full thighs. I’ve found exactly one brand for me that works for each of those (Halogen for pencil skirts, Maggy London for sheath dresses). When your high hip circumference is 8 inches bigger than your waist, and your low hip/thigh circumference is yet another 5 inches bigger, sheaths and pencil skirts can come in so tight under the behind and around the thighs that you look like a member of another profession altogether.

    But fit and flare dresses and A-line skirts that are loose rather than full? I can buy those online from many different designers and they all fit perfectly, with only some hemming needed, and as long as they’re of high quality material, they look perfectly professional with long or short blazers. They also look incredibly good with tights and boots in the winter – better than sheaths, for sure.

  12. I love fit and flares. As a person with hips, they are genius.

  13. I hate these dresses as much as Kat hates cuffed pants. I’m not even sure why.

  14. Thanks for the tip – I loved the red dress, ordered it Monday morning and am now wearing it to work! Its a bit fuller in the skirt than it appears on the model (but that may be because I’m an apple and its designed for someone with bigger hips).
    I love FnF because they are so much more comfortable for me to wear than sheaths! I don’t feel like I’m tugging at anything constantly or that I’m being constricted at all.

  15. Jones NY and Anne Klein have consistently had great FnF and “swing” dresses for the last 2 years or so. I’me fairly certain the JNY was featured on this site a while back too.

  16. Wow Nice collection of the flare dresses i love the red flare dress its look awesome i want this dress so pretty..!!


    Invaluable discussion , I learned a lot from the points , Does someone know where I could possibly get ahold of a fillable CBP 823F version to use ?

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