Body Type

Dresses for Women Over 40: Figure Flattering Dresses and Outfits

Have you ever heard the quote, “Your dress should be tight enough to show you are a woman but loose enough to show you are a lady?”  Those sage words are from the Iconic Hollywood costume designer Edith Head, who understood that before you fall in love with the color, vibe, or even the price of a dress, you must take a long, hard look at the style.


Does it suit your shape?

Finding a dress that flatters your unique body type is the key to looking wow! Here are 5 popular styles of dresses for women over 40 that are guaranteed to make you look Age-amazing!


sheath dresses for women over 40

Twist Neck Sheath Dress | Floral Print Boatneck Sheath Dress | Colorblock Sheath Dress

1. The Sheath Dress

A beautiful sheath dress is class all the way. This long, lean, body-skimming style encases your body, enhances your curves, or creates them where there are none. A Sheath dress is typically sleeveless with strong waist definition and a back slit or pleats. It’s unfussy and a fabulous choice for work, or anytime you are going to an important event and aren’t sure what to wear.

Women’s Sheath Dresses are perfect for:

  • hourglass figures- show off the curves you have at their best
  • boyish or thick-waisted figures-  create the illusion of an hourglass

Sheath Dresses are tricky to wear if:

  • your body is not proportionate
  • you have a large protruding tummy

Find out why else I love women’s sheath dresses. 

shift dresses for women over 40

Eyelet Puff Sleeve Shift Dress | Tweed Button Pocket Shift Dress | Embroidered Shift Dress

2. The Shift Dress

A shift dress is one of the most flattering women’s dresses.  It’s the kind of dress every woman wants in her closet because it is easy and comfortable. It’s sort of like wearing a  long top.  It hangs loosely from the shoulders (sometimes has darts) and falls straight down to above the knee with no waist definition.

Shift dresses can be sleeveless, have short or long sleeves, and often have a high scoop or boatneck neckline. Since they are looser than a sheath dress, they give off a casual, relaxed vibe and are excellent for covering up problem areas because they give your body room to “shift around.” These are great dresses for gals our age with a thick midlife middle.

Shift Dresses are perfect for:

  •  anyone with a boyish, straight-up and down, rectangular figure
  • women with a thick midsection
  • women with a jelly belly or large hips or thighs who need something a little looser

Shift dresses are tricky to wear if:

  • you are very curvy because they will hide your hourglass figure (although, in some cases, you can try belting one)
  • the dress is too baggy- a slightly tailored sheath with a slight A-line flare is best so you don’t look like you are wearing a bag
  • you wear one that’s too short- Shift dresses are on the short side, and you will look heavy if you have large thighs. The solution is to add tights or leggings. They look great with shift dresses.


fit and flare dresses for women over 40

Lace Cocktail Dress | Flutter Sleeve Crepe Dress | Lace Hem Dress

3. Fit and Flare Dress

Fit and Flare is one of the most popular silhouettes, and it’s no wonder. This style has a fitted top with a very defined waist and a flared skirt. A fit and flare will make you look very shapely and is a godsend if you have a heavy lower half. Women love it because it is feminine and pretty.

Fit and flare dresses are perfect for:

  • balancing out a bigger bust – the wide skirt can even you out creating an hourglass
  • pear shapes who want to conceal wide hips or heavy thighs
  • women with boyish, no waist rectangular body types who want to create curves

Fit and flare dresses can be tricky to wear if you:

  • want to look sophisticated. Some look too little girly if short or depending on the pattern.


wrap dresses for women over 40

Floral Print Wrap Dress | Chiffon Maxi Wrap Dress | Flutter Sleeve Midi Wrap Dress

4. The Wrap Dress

The wrap dress is another one of the best dresses for over 40 because it is timeless, elegant and complements many body shapes. The beauty of a wrap dress lies in its design – it features an elongating V-neckline and a wrap-around waist tie. This simple yet clever design allows you to adjust the dress to your body’s contours, giving you a customized fit that emphasizes your best features and minimizes any areas you may be less confident about.

Wrap dresses are perfect for:

  • hourglass figures accentuate your natural curves, highlighting your waist and enhancing your bust and hips.
  • pear-shaped figures: The A-line skirt of the wrap dress balances your proportions, drawing attention away from your lower body and toward your upper half.
  • apple-shaped figures: The wrap dress cinches at the waist, creating the illusion of an hourglass shape and detracting attention from the midsection.
  • rectangle-shaped figures: The wrap dress adds curves where needed, giving you a more feminine silhouette.

Wrap Dresses are tricky to wear if:

  • you have a large bust. To avoid an overly revealing look, choose a wrap dress with a snap closure or wear a camisole underneath.
  • you’re petite. Opt for a wrap dress with a shorter hemline to prevent overwhelming your frame.


Polka Dot Shirtdress | Linen Dress | Striped Dress

5. The Shirtdress

Shirt dresses are one of the more casual dresses for women over 40 and are comfy, versatile, and effortless. These dresses draw inspiration from classic men’s dress shirts. They typically feature a button-down front, a collar, cuffed sleeves, and a belt.  Shirt dresses have a polished look without being formal, making them perfect work or casual dresses for women over 40.

Shirtdresses are perfect for:

  • hourglass figures: The belted waist of a shirtdress emphasizes your curves, highlighting your bust and hips while creating an attractive silhouette.
  • rectangle-shaped figures: Shirtdresses add structure and definition, providing the illusion of a more hourglass shape.
  • apple-shaped figures: The shirtdress’s button-down front allows you to control the fit, making it a comfortable and flattering choice for women with an apple-shaped body.
  • petite figures: Shirtdresses can be found in various lengths, making them suitable for women of different heights.

Shirtdresses are tricky to wear if:

  • they are too loose at the waist, which makes them appear shapeless.
  • they are too short, like a real shirt instead of a dress


a-line dresses for women over 40

 Floral Linen Midi A-Line Dress | Belted A-Line Dress | A-Line Sweater Dress

6. A-line Dress

A-line dresses are refined, graceful, easy to move in, and comfy, making them a fantastic choice for women over 40. The A-line silhouette has a fitted bodice that gradually flares out from the waist, creating a shape that resembles the letter “A.” It’s one of the most universally flattering dresses for women in their 40’s.

A-line dresses are perfect for:

  • pear-shaped figures: The A-line shape balances your proportions by skimming over your hips and thighs while highlighting your smaller waist.
  • hourglass figures: A-line dresses accentuate your curves, emphasizing your bust and hips while maintaining an elegant and feminine look.
  • Apple-shaped figures: The gradual flare of the A-line dress conceals your midsection, creating the illusion of a more defined waist.
  • Rectangle-shaped figures: A-line dresses add subtle definition to your figure, giving you a more shapely appearance.

A-line dresses are tricky to wear if:

  • they are too short or long. Knee length or midi length is most flattering.
  • the fabric is too stiff; an A-line will look boxy. It needs to have an elegant flow.


Empire waist dresses for women over 40

Eyelet Midi Dress | Printed Satin Midi Dress | Chambray Ruffle Sleeve Dress

7. Empire Waist Dress

If you’re looking for a style that combines comfort and elegance, the empire waist dress should be your go-to choice. This style of dress has a high waistline that rests just below the bust, flowing into a loose and often A-line skirt. It’s a timeless and flattering silhouette that works exceptionally well for women over 40.

Empire waist dresses are perfect for:

  • camouflaging a tummy: The high waistline draws attention away from the midsection, making it an ideal choice if you have concerns about your stomach area.
  • petite figures: The elongated silhouette created by the empire waist can give the illusion of added height, making it an excellent option for those on the shorter side.
  • accentuating the décolletage: The high waistline draws attention to your upper body, making it a great choice for showcasing your neck, shoulders, and bust.

A-line dresses are tricky to wear if:

  • If you have a large bust, Ensure the dress provides enough support or wear a well-fitted bra to avoid discomfort or a sloppy appearance.
  • you prefer a more fitted look: If you want a dress that highlights your curves, the empire waist may not be the most suitable option.


Style Wrap-Up

With so many dress styles, it is hard to know what to choose. I’ve talked about a few of the most figure-flattering dresses for women in their 40’s and beyond, but there are many more. Just remember, your dress will be a hit when you have the right fit, so choose accordingly!

Ladies, Which do you think are the most flattering dresses for over 40? Is there a style you usually buy that flatters your mature figure, and which styles do you avoid? Let me know. Jump in the chat below!    

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26 thoughts on “Dresses for Women Over 40: Figure Flattering Dresses and Outfits

  1. I usually like the sundresses with the elastic bodice. They are flattering on a petite frame, and I had my Draper James one on yesterday. Thank you for the list! I saved some of the styles for reference. I especially liked the chambray ruffled dress with tennis shoes. It’s perfect for July with the deep V.

    1. Hi Bonnie,
      Yes, that is a darling dress! I find some chambray dresses can look a little plain and boring or masculine, but this one has style and is pretty too. And it’s not too short either, which is can be a turnoff. If you pick that up be sure and send a photo of you in it. I’d love to see how you style it. Thanks for dropping by! Cheers, Deb

  2. Thank you for the very informative. I especially like that you mentioned who the dress style it is perfect for versus would be tricky to wear.

    1. Amy, I’m so glad it helped. Body type is key when deciding the best dress for you. It can make all the difference in your overall look! Thanks for dropping by. Cheers, Deborah

  3. Deborah, I would love to wear a wrap dress but they all are too low cut on me. I have even ordered the one from Amazon that you feature but it was the same problem. I think I need to look for a wrap dress in a petite size.

  4. I’m a fan of fit and flare, on one condition. The length must be just below the knee. Anything higher looks goofy and too high school on me.

    Also a fan of short sweaters or jackets with swing dresses: very 1950s.

  5. Hi! I love your blog. I Am 52 years old, 5 10, and 145 pounds. I am looking for a lovely summer dress to wear in Mexico for our family portrait and looking for blue color. I was wondering what kind of dress you would recommend. I don’t know if I should get a pattern or a solid dress for the family beach portrait. There will be five others in the photo Recommendations would be excellent T n M ro tine

    1. Hi Martine, You’re friendly and tall and at the beach. What about a maxi dress? Generally, I recommend a solid color for photographs, but since you are at the beach, things are more informal, and there are other people in the shot, you could go for a fun pattern. You’re in Mexico, after all, so saturated colors like bright oranges, blues, greens, yellows, and reds would look great. You should coordinate your color/patterns with the others if you want the shot to look fabulous. Otherwise it may l, l, l, l, l, l ook like you “didn’t get the memo,” if you know what I mean. You don’t want to have clashing patterns or colors. Have a wonderful time!

      1. Thank you for your advice, Deborah! I will look for a maxi dress… possibly with an interesting pattern. I don’t have nice legs, so I like this idea for that reason also.

        1. There are some great options for cute maxi dresses that are inexpensive at Ross Dress for Less, TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, and Nordstrom Rack…some are casual enough to wear to the pool and are made of cotton t-shirt material, so they pack easily.

  6. I love the look of wearing a dress. However, I quit wearing them when people stopped wearing hose. I am 57, and my legs are lily white and do not look good without a hose. Is it ever alright to wear a hose?

    1. I always opt for hose if my shoes are closed-toe – and if not, I go with hose / Spanx down to mid-thigh; and use tan wipes on my legs and feet with a good pedicure.

  7. I love the fit and flare but finding any dress that hits at the knee is impossible; they are all too short. Loved all of the dresses pictured.

  8. I found a perfect style for me! A slightly A shape knit in a wild pink print with sewn-in “jewels” around the boat neck AND elbow sleeves. I loved it so much; I bought a similar one in turquoise!

  9. I’ve recently discovered that I love the fit and flare silhouette! I was kind of off dresses for a long time, and I think it was because I was wearing styles that didn’t suit me. I find the fit and flare so flattering and comfortable! I see lots more in my future, especially with spring and summer!

  10. LOVE the fit and flare dresses – the shift dresses are shapeless so um, no. Sheath dresses – maybe. Of course I’ve never been a “dress gal,” but I’m 43 and decided to try something new this year and change my style a bit……which is why I joined this site! Making the transition into what is appropriate at 43 and what is NOT is difficult for me – thank you for a wonderful website!! :)

    1. Hi Patti, so glad you joined our community. What you said is essential; you want to try something new. It’s good to shake things up a bit. We often get stuck in a rut buying the same old things that are not us anymore. It would help if you took a few chances to discover who you are and how you want to express yourself at 40+. When your clothes reflect the person you feel you are on the inside, it’s uplifting and exciting, and that shines through. Please send me a photo of you in your new dress, whatever you choose, and I’ll post it. Cheers, Deborah

  11. I bought a navy sheath for my daughter’s college graduation in May. Versatile. However, I just never seem to get anything but a sheath style. I should try others, but lack of money holds me back. I love your blog, thank you!

    1. Hi Jean, I think that’s the perfect dress for graduation. You can’t go wrong with a sheath for any occasion. It’s class all the way. Look for the best sales on dresses starting in June. That’s when all the summer things go on sale, and you will indeed find an excellent fit and flare if you want to try it for a reasonable price. This is an effortless dress style, so I think you will get a lot of use out of it too. Cheers, Deborah

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