Ask Alexandra: Who Can Wear Strapless Dresses?

strapless dresses, fashion advice column, Ask Alexandra, red carpet

Three examples of people looking terrible in strapless dresses: Paula Abdul's (left) shoulders are too small and bony, plus her dress is lopsided, Debbi Morgan (center) has armpit muffin top and the top is not shapely enough, Jane Lynch's (right) dress looks like it is falling off her, and makes her look like she has sagging boobs.

Since people are probably thinking about what they are going to wear on New Year’s Eve, I thought this might be a good time to address the strapless dress issue. And this will also be useful for all the ladies who get engaged over the holidays, and are tempted by a strapless meringue for their summer wedding.

Hi Alexandra,

I couldn’t agree more with your opinion on strapless dresses and how they are overrated and boring and how not everyone can pull them off. You say that not all women have the ‘shoulders’ to wear them, I may be green about this but what exactly does that mean? And who in your opinion possess good shoulders?

Very curious,
Allison

strapless dresses, fashion advice column, Ask Alexandra, red carpet

Three examples of ladies who look amazing in a strapless dress, from left to right: Heidi Klum, Katerina Graham, and Taylor Swift.

Hi Allison,

There are a few important qualities you need to have in order to get away with a strapless dress. Firstly, you need to have nicely shaped and defined shoulders, collarbone area, neck, and upper back (good looking shoulder blades is a plus, too.) This means that they are toned/visible, but not bulging out in an anorexic type of way. Secondly, you need to have no armpit muffin top, or whatever you call that muffin top situation you get when you are wearing a strapless top too tight. That looks terrible. Another very scary thing is boobs falling or sticking out of the top of the dress. A little cleavage is good, but half melons sticking out and nipples dangerously close to being on show are not. Lastly, you need to have nice arms and a slender, long neck.

strapless dresses, fashion advice column, Ask Alexandra, red carpet

Strapless dress/jumpsuit disasters, from left to right. Courtney Love looking far too emaciated to be wearing strapless, Tara Reid doing the half melon boobs scenario which looks terrible, and Tyra Banks with back armpit muffin top and boobs that are way too big for strapless.

When you are buying a strapless dress, you need to make sure it isn’t too tight (or you end up with armpit muffin top) or too loose. Fit is very important. The distance between your shoulders and the top of the dress can’t be too long, if not, it looks like you have sagging boobs. The dress also needs to be fitted along the top (this may sounds like a no brainer, but there are lots of strapless dresses that come away from the body at the top. That is just dodgy.) Finally, you simply cannot wear strapless if you have a very large chest, if not, you risk looking like the car crash that was Kim Kardashian on her wedding day.

strapless dresses, fashion advice column, Ask Alexandra, red carpet

More ladies looking good in strapless, from left to right: Brooklyn Decker, Eva Longoria Parker, and Cameron Diaz.

It might sounds like a lot of requirements, but to get away with any revealing items of clothing, you need to have a good body to reveal. People with flabby stomachs or fat legs don’t (or shouldn’t) wear crop tops or mini skirts. Strapless has the same rules, if you are revealing your upper body and shoulders, you had better hope they look good.

Of course some people wear these things, even if they don’t have any nice body parts to show off. That’s called gutsy, poorly dressed, or someone who doesn’t care what other people think of them. Which is fine by me, but just don’t expect a compliment.

strapless dresses, fashion advice column, Ask Alexandra, red carpet

Three more strapless dress fiascos, from left to right: Archie Panjabi's dress is way too low on her torso and is lopsided, Jenna Ushkovitz's arms are too fat, and Michelle Williams has armpit muffin top.

Please note the above images are ONLY examples of good/bad strapless dress situations. I am not endorsing the dresses or celebrities in the good photos, as I generally dislike most strapless dresses and these are no exception. Further reading on my hatred for all that is strapless.

All images from Go Fug Yourself.

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  • Skating Canuck

    Great article. Finally something that articulates why strapless dresses have almost always receive a ‘meh’ reaction from me.

    I think the wedding gown strapless dress craze is rooted in 2 reasons–this also applies to other strapless gown.

    WOMEN WANT TO BE CINDERELLA. When I think of brides looking like meringues–take for example Julia Roberts acting (not in real life) in Runaway Bride. I think of Disney’s Cinderella waiting to be swept off her feet my some schmuck–the same applies to meringue like prom dresses.

    THEY’LL WEAR IT IF THEY WANT TO. I have always prescribed (like you Alexandra) to the belief that one should wear clothes that enhances ones assets. However many people simply wear what they want to wear(even they bring the stock down). They want to feel like a princess or like an a Greek statue even if they aren’t built like one. Meanwhile angel stylist on their shoulder will cry if she wants to.

  • Big busted and proud

    With the advances in strapless bras, going all the way to a K cup now, it is wrong for you to fully dismiss the idea of someone with a larger bust wearing strapless.
    All they have to do is wear an amazing, supportive strapless bra and make sure the dress fits perfectly.
    Reading this article I was disheartened to see you say they should avoid strapless all together. Yes you need good shoulders, neck etc. but plus sized models have this too?
    Just because they have a larger bust than about a B doesn’t immediately mean they cannot wear strapless! I am growing angrier by the second writing this. I will assume from your comments you’re not well endowed in that area.
    Furthermore, you do not have to be a larger figure to have that size breasts, I myse;f am a 30 around my back and a size UK 8.. when the average is a LOT higher.
    Don’t judge someone before you walk in their shoes lady!
    BIG BUSTED WOMEN CAN WEAR STRAPLESS. FACT.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    I don’t equate plus size with big chest. I personally think that a woman with a very large chest, whether it be a size zero or a size 20 body, looks vulgar in a strapless dress. And, I also think that a plus size woman can have nice shoulders and a nice back – I never suggested otherwise. Perhaps you should calm down a re-read my blog post and note that I have not suggested plus size woman can’t wear strapless. Then look at my tagline – fashion & opinion. If you don’t want to hear my opinion, read another blog. I think big chests + strapless dress = bad news. But there is no mention of plus size women here, only large cup sizes.

  • steff92

    My strapless dresses are my go to dress I am a 32f and they fit me perfectly ( probably the most important factor right there) as many people have told me.Please inform as to what big breasted women should wear as it seems to me that it is forever going to be difficult for big busted women to find clothes that are nice/appropriate/fashionable to wear, even when sizing is becoming more accommodating. I really struggle to find clothes that will recieve a complment, apart from my strapless dresses, as apparently they always show too much or don’t show enough and therefore become a car crash as you put it.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    There’s exceptions to every rule! And if they fit you perfectly, then I am sure that contributes a great deal to the reasons why they look good on you.

  • Disappointed

    Did you just say her arms are too fat? What is wrong with you? Lol this is why women develop body issues…the definition of fat extends too far

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    What I meant (which I think is pretty clear) is that her arms look too fat for her to be wearing strapless. This does not imply that she is too fat or her arms are too fat, only that they don’t work with strapless. It’s not every woman’s god given right to wear strapless and look good – just like it’s not every women’s god given right to wear a crop top and look good (on that note, my definitely of looking good might be different to yours.)

  • Sienna

    Miss BB & LOUD (I mean PROOOOUD) from point of view of a fellow reader, I agree with Alexandra that proportion and wearing what embraces your individual assets is generally thought to be good dressing. Clearly you belong to the” I will wear what the fuck the I want to” group. Good for you–personally I would rather make heads turn with Marion Cotillard/ Diane Kruger like styling vs. Cher (Bob Mackie Oscar dress)/ Helena Bonham Carter like styling. There is no need for petty and catty ammunition. Alexandra is respected for her refreshingly honest and articulate opinions combined with sardonic wit (sometimes layered with socio political commentary). If you can’t appreciate it 1)check out Kim Kardashian’s website (likely more suitable for you sista).

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Thanks :-)

  • Roari Yoluta

    Thanks for this comment. I have large breasts and have never been able to wear anything strapless or dainty because of it. It makes me feel manly and unfeminine :(

    A lot of this article felt like it was just attacking women with larger breasts, saying “you cant look good like this no matter what”.
    I’m honestly tired of the amount of times any woman with large breasts wants to wear something anyone else with a smaller bust can and she is attacked as if she is trying to show off. (i’ve had this SO much. just even wearing regular singlets?!)
    i will not HIDE my body away because other people can’t keep their spite to themselves.

    Anyway i’m going to keep looking because i often see plus sized models pull off a lot of great looks that articles like this (which was painfully critical and judgy) seem to say is a big no.
    Whoever wrote this seems like they have some major hang ups with body image and stuff.. it’s kind of sad to think about how critical they must be on themselves if they are like this with other women in general :/

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    This article WAS NOT an attack on women with larger breasts, but you’ve read it that way because you are sensitive about the fact that you don’t think you look good in strapless. I also have not told anyone to cover themselves up – aside from adding a strap between their chest and neck.

    I’m sorry it upsets you so much, but I do not understand why everyone thinks they have the god given right to look good in everything.

    There are many different body types and people just need to face up to the fact that certain body types don’t look good in certain things. I have a small chest but I can’t get away with strapless because my shoulders are fat. I don’t mourn this or go around feeling sorry for myself like you do, I just choose to wear things that aren’t strapless. And there are a lot of things out there that work for me.

    And on that note, I am not very critical of myself in terms of my body. It’s not where I want it to be, but I also know that’s because I like wine and cheese and don’t exercise more than 3 times a week. I can live with that. You should learn to live with yourself, too.

  • TeamBigBoobs

    I disagree with all of this. Christina Hendricks looks stunning in anything strapless, as do plenty of other shapely women.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Agree on Christina Hendricks but she is exceptional in more ways than one.

  • agathnele

    I always had been in love with backless dresses. I also have
    a backless one, but when I went to the market for getting something nice, my
    shopping wasn’t complete without http://byebra.com
    breast stickers—a product that shapes
    women’s breasts and is like a breast sticker. Have you ever tried that before?

  • Mellisa

    What a shit blog waisted a good 2mins of my life reading that also looking at your comments &replies you are an absolute moron Free speech my arse this is a pile of crap

  • NotImpressed

    You’re body shaming disguised as “fashion blogger”, shame on you!

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Sorry if I have upset you (actually, not sorry.) If you think everyone looks good in everything, then that’s fine. I don’t. This isn’t about body shaming, this is about knowing what looks good on you.

  • Emily

    So what if someone doesn’t look good in a strapless dress? Don’t dictate what a woman can and cannot wear. This is pure judgemental drivel. Despite what you claim, this IS body shaming and you honestly should be ashamed. I never say things like this, but I refuse to see this happen.

  • kate

    Are you serious? I came here looking for advice and now I just feel all upset about my imperfections. We are human, we can have more skin on our bodies or less so why is it such a big deal on who can wear a certain style of clothing because you might not suit that certain dress. The Women could’ve chosen the wrong sort of strapless for themselves. anyone can suit anything.

  • Big Blonde And Beautiful ;)

    I’m a size 14 and I have D sized breasts. I think girls built like myself look beautiful no matter the dress. I wear strapless dresses and shirts quite a bi and I think that I look pretty damn good. Ladies don’t think down about yourselves! we are all beautiful and Alexandra is entitled to her opinion.

  • WHAT????

    if Jenna Ushkovitz’s arms are too fat than I must be the size of bloody Neptune. shame on you!

  • Fenneca

    Alexandra is hardly someone to justify being critical of anyone’s appearance in any way, shape or form. A frumpy unattractive little piglet if ever I saw one!!!