The idea of a sweater dress is appealing. Throw it on with hose and boots and you’re ready to roll. If only they weren’t so hard to fit. The sweater dress guidelines below are by no means flop-proof, but they might help get you on your way:

  • Embrace an unstructured look: Many sweater dresses are supposed to look untailored and a little boxy. It’s fine if they float away from the hips and don’t come in at the waist. It’s a cute look if the rest of your outfit is pulled together (good fit on the shoulders, fab hose, nice boots and handbag). Clingy sweater dresses are extremely tricky and not my preferred choice for most body types. I say go with the volume and embrace a less structured look.
  • Consider an Empire cut: The baby doll style is a good option if you’re not busty. It’s tailored on top and roomy on the bottom, which makes for a forgiving A-line silhouette.
  • Consider a Fit and Flare: Styles that are belted at the waist for structure, but spacious at the bottom for comfort are another good way to go. You can also change out the belt for a more polished appearance.
  • Choose heavier knits: This does not necessarily mean “chunky knit” because fine gauge knits can have substance. Knits with weight smooth over the contour of the body instead of grabbing onto curves in an unflattering way. Many sweater dresses are made with flimsy knits and this is usually the deal breaker for me.
  • Get the length right: Sweater dresses can’t be hemmed or lengthened, which means that the length has to be perfect upon purchase. I like them best just above the knee. I’m personally finding most sweater dresses too short, but I know that petites are finding them too long. Not easy!
  • Test the complete outfit: Make sure you try a potential sweater dress with hose and boots before you say no. Getting the ensemble right can make all the difference.

Add the desire for non-scratchy wool, a pretty colour and a flattering neckline to the above variables and the search gets even harder. It’s a miracle we’re wearing sweater dresses at all.

I’ve been lucky to find two that I love but it’s taken two seasons and lots of experimentation. One is an empire cut and the other is a sack-like shape. Several possibilities opened up to me once I got my head around the fact that I could still look and feel pulled together wearing an unstructured style.

Have you had luck finding a sweater dress, or have you given up? Any more tips on how to find this elusive item?

Jones New York Dress Sweater DressClassiques Entier® Sweater DressDesign History Button Front Sweater DressMaggy London Cowl Neck Ribbed Sweater Dress

Four sweater dress styles that are generally more flattering: an empire cut, two fit and flares and a sack dress. The weights of the knits look pretty substantial too. Be sure to check out bluefly for sweater dress deals.