A Dress or a Suit? A Guide to Plus Size Guest Attire

    If your head starts spinning over what to wear every time you get invited to a party, you are not alone. Dress codes can be confusing, and times are changing the norms anyway. Regardless of the kind of event, this is an opportunity to spend a little extra time on looking good. 

    When you are curvy, it can be a challenge to find clothes you love, but times are changing that too. It is getting easier to find trendy plus size fashion in all styles, from super casual to super formal.

    White Tie

    For most of us, the opportunity to go to a white tie event does not arise often. This is the most formal of events. Think Met Gala attire (minus the daring choices stars like Lady Gaga made at the 2019 red carpet event). Tuxedos with coattails and floor-length ball gowns, with expensive jewelry and elbow-length gloves are appropriate attire.

    If there is any time to take your dress to the tailor, it is now. You want a dress that fits you perfectly and shows off your favorite features. A lower-cut neckline that shows off a little cleavage is probably perfectly appropriate at this kind of event, and you have some room to get creative. If you love your legs, go for a gown that shows them off a bit. Even some of the fanciest floor-length gowns have a slit up the side or an open-front poofy skirt.

    Black Tie

    A step down from white tie events, these parties are still pretty formal. Suits are almost always tuxedos, and dresses are evening gowns made from silks, satins, and velvets, often with beading or sequins. 

    When dressing for a black-tie event, opt for clothes that compliment your shape with higher-quality fabrics to provide support, smoothing out any lumps and bumps. Empire cuts are a popular choice for plus size dresses because of the way they gather under the bust and then flow out from there. The point to keep in mind with an empire cut, however, is that you want a fabric that will graze, not hug, the body. 

    Black Tie Creative or Festive

    The fun siblings of the black-tie party, these parties are exactly what they say they are. Get creative with your attire, and mix things up. Colors and patterns are super fun. Wear tuxedo pants and a fancy beaded shirt, or a fabulous long skirt with plus size sweaters for layering

    Show off your cleavage with something trendy and low-cut. If your legs are your favorite feature, now is an appropriate time to show them off with a fancy cocktail dress that stops at or just above the knee—though it’s best to avoid anything shorter. You can also wear clothes that are a little more shape-hugging at parties like this, to show off your curves with confidence. 

    If you are in doubt, it never hurts to ask the host or other friends who are “in the know” about what kind of crowd you will be attending with, but these parties are usually a great time to use your imagination to express yourself while still getting fancy.

    Cocktail or Semi-Formal

    These are events where you get to dress up, but you do not need to spend a fortune on your clothes. Definitely go with a dress that cuts off at or around the knee, and is fancier than a day dress, but not quite an evening gown. Silk or velvet with embellishments is totally appropriate. You could also go with fancy separates or even a formal jumpsuit. If you intend to wear a suit, go with dark colors unless it’s a daytime party. In that case, lighter colors will be perfectly acceptable.


    Business dress events generally require a more conservative dress. If you are going to wear a suit, you can change your look based on whether the event is business formal or business casual. Business formal requires a dark suit with a dress shirt. Business casual can be something lighter-colored, and it can include separates instead of a full suit.

    Dresses are the same for either event. Wear something on the conservative side, with no cleavage, body-hugging cuts, or very short skirts. Think about what you would wear to a business meeting with an important client, and add a couple of accessories because it’s a party.

    Dressy Casual

    These occasions are typically work mixers or relaxed dinner parties with friends. You can go with dark denim or khaki bottoms, and a semi-dressy shirt or sweater. Add a simple blazer to step up your look without going overboard. Shirt dresses are an excellent way to go if you are looking to wear a dress. They complement fuller figures, plus if your dress has buttons, you can wait until you get to the party to decide how much cleavage to show.


    This is the most relaxed dress code; where jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers are all totally encouraged. Get comfy, just make sure you don’t get sloppy. Your clothes should be clean and fit well, and t-shirts should not be graphic. No yoga or sweatpants either. 
    If you want to dress up your look a little, try adding a colorful jean jacket or some of your favorite jewelry. You could also give your hair a little extra style or do your nails.