Flattering party dresses for every shape

The party season is almost upon us, and for women up and down the country, the hunt for the perfect party dress is beginning. But don't be tempted by catwalk trends or fleeting fashions - dressing for your shape is the best way to catch the eye this Christmas.

Pic: M&Co

Here are our top tips on seeking out the perfect outfit to show off your shape.

The key to dressing for your shape is to balance out your body. Therefore, pear-shaped women should aim to even out the narrower shoulders and bigger hips. Drawing attention to the neckline with patterns or embellishments works well, as will puffed or lace sleeves. Straight-cut skirts and empire line dresses are also a flattering choice for pear-shaped girls, ideally with a belt or detail to draw attention to the waist. But it's best to avoid anything too busy in terms of patterns on the bottom half.

If you've got a bit of a tummy and would rather not show it, avoid satin and silk, as these materials will show up any lumps and bumps you might be trying to hide. A strapless or single-strapped dress will define your upper body, and an empire line dress can work surprisingly well, provided you stick to a very subtle pattern of small embellishments for added wow factor. A style that's fitted at the waist can also work (though you may want to invest in some body-shaping undies), and a wide belt will help to give you a great shape.

Athletic build
If you are tall and slim but lacking in curves, you need a dress to give you that shape or at the least draw attention to the curves you do have. Draw attention to the bust by investing in a dress with spaghetti straps, and don't be afraid of a low neckline, which can actually help if you have small boobs. Avoid wrap dresses as these require your own body's curves to add definition, and opt instead for an empire line or bodycon to show off your build to best effect.

If you're lucky enough to have that Marilyn Monroe look, make the most of it with an outfit that's fitted at the waist. A full skirt will emphasise your natural hourglass figure, and don't be afraid of a plunging neckline. Something knee length will work wonderfully, but do avoid dresses or skirts that finish on the calf.

Flowing chiffon or too much fabric will swamp a petite frame, but a classic shift dress or fitted number, such as M&Co's Goutique lace pencil dress (£79, pictured) will work wonders for a tiny figure. You can be bold with prints or colour too, and if you are wearing tights or stockings, make sure they match the colour of your shoes to create a longer leg. Skinny high heels will, of course, add a little height as well as elongating the leg, but ditch the sandals with ankle straps, which have the opposite effect.

Last but not least, a word on colour. Choosing a colour that suits your skin tone will help you to make a splash at the Christmas do, so go light if you are dark-skinned, opt for neutral or warm tones if you have a medium skin tone, and choose bright, striking colours if you are fair.