Wedding Season '07 just won't go quietly into this good night, will it?
Before I start, I want to first thank this reader for sending me so much detailed information - even a full-length picture! - the thoroughness of which really helped me narrow down not only what type of hem, neckline, back and sleeves would look most flattering on her frame but also, because of the clearly expressed desire for versatility (i.e. a dress that needs to fit in at both a semi-formal and formal wedding, shoes that can bridge the work-to-wedding transition, etc.), what colors and fabrics to select.
My subject has toned arms, nicely defined shoulders, a thin waist and killer legs.
She also has a very very small chest (that second "very" was hers, not mine) and an aversion to anything with an open-back.
My first thoughts always lead me to the question, "What should she not wear?" In this case, if we want to minimize attention to the chest, I advise against a v-shaped neckline or any other kind of deep front plunge that will draw a virtual arrow to her self-proclaimed AAs. Even if she wears a padded bra that boosts her babes up to a large A/small B, the lack of any real outline of a rack will show much more obviously when one bares a large swath of decolletage. I've been there, and the last thing you want is to look "all bra." On a similar note, I would also avoid dresses with a strapless neckline, an empire waist or anything with front-heavy embellishments, because again, tuxedo-bibbing, an ornate ruffle or rosette adornment, or anything of equal look-at-me detailing is going to draw unwanted focus to the breasts.
Another consideration is this woman's height. 5'4" isn't short by any means, especially if heels are involved, but in light of the fact that there are some great gams we need to show off, I would steer clear of any dress with a knee-length-or-longer hemline. Because we're covering up your back and leaning toward a higher neckline, it only makes sense to shorten that hem and bare some skin down below so as not to look overtly prudish.
Now, onto the "What should she wear?" question. When I looked at this young woman's photo, the first thing that stood out to me was her upper body: her shoulders, her arms and her lovely side-to-hip contour. These are all extremely enviable features, features most women would trade their fabulous racks for, because while plastic surgery can give a girl a heaving D-cup, it can't do much to transform ham-hock biceps and it certainly can't carve out an ideal not-too-narrow-not-too-broad pair of shoulders. And finally, because I will never not be in favor of highlighting a narrow waist, I wanted to look for a dress that either cinched with a belt or band or at the very least had a built-in narrowed-to-the-hips silhouette.
Taking into consideration color, fabric and the ability to serve this woman well in both a semi-formal and a Manhattan-formal setting, I have come up with three choices in a well-under-$200 price range. I know this isn't a large selection from which to choose, but I highly encourage you to take the figure-flattering guidelines I've provided above in tandem with the silhouettes you see below and attempt to find something in-person either at a department store, a vintage boutique or even your local Zara/H&M/Forever 21.
As for shoes, a neutral peep-toe like these, these or these would work just as perfectly with a dress at a low-key or formal wedding as they would with a pair of herringbone trousers or pencil skirt for a day at the office. Just remember, the more delicate your dress, the more delicate your shoe should be -- one of the biggest egads! I see at formal events is when a woman tops off a thin-strapped or no-strapped dress in a super-fine fabric like silk or chiffon with a full-figured clunky-by-comparison pump.
And because I can't stress this enough, if you haven't already begun one, start now - start this second - with a full-body, twice-a-day, vitamin-E-enriched moisturizing routine. You've got the hardware, now start with the upkeep. I'd recommend a good body glimmer as well, but I'd hate to increase your chances of a run-in with an older man and his trusty pocket square...
Happy bouquet dodging!
*your editrix's top pick (note: I would try to find a boatneck that drapes a bit lower than this one does so you can reveal that nicely-sculpted collarbone of yours)
**If you could find this style sans keyhole and with a slightly shorter hem, you'd be golden
***I would have your tailor snip a good five inches off the hem of this one