Choosing the Best Dress for Broad Shoulders – Styling Tips and Ideas

Christine Steuber
Aug 5, 2022
In this guide, I'm going to cover the best dresses for broad shoulders, outfit ideas from celebrities and influencers, and some wedding dress inspiration.

Do dresses for broad shoulders actually exist?

I see why you might be asking yourself this question. People with this physiological characteristic often have trouble picking proper clothes to make their bodies look proportional. Dresses are the biggest problem – they may make your waist appear snatched, but weird sleeves or details on shoulders can make them look enormous, ruining the whole look. 

If you can relate to this situation, I’m here for you. In this guide, I will share tips on choosing the best dress for broad shoulders, along with some outfit ideas for inspiration. 

Let’s dive in! 

How to Determine if You Have Broad Shoulders?

Look at yourself in the mirror. Does it seem that the silhouette of your body goes into a V shape or so-called inverted triangle? If you have that impression, you probably have broad shoulders. Other characteristics of wide shoulders are:

  • More square than round.
  • Usually come with a bony protrusion.
  • Often associated with athleticism.
  • Their measurement is the same or broader than the hips.

However, to accurately determine whether you have broad shoulders, you can do it in two ways – by yourself or with the help of someone else.

If you decide to do it yourself, you’ll only need a measuring tape and a pencil. Lean against the wall, keeping your head straight. Mark the spot over the left shoulder with the right hand and repeat the same on the opposite side. Then take a measuring tape and measure the distance between these spots. Finally, compare this distance to the width of your hips – if it’s bigger, then you belong in the wide shoulder category.

Do You Have Wide Shoulders -

However, measuring with the help of someone else is much simpler. All you need is to ask a friend to stretch the tape from one shoulder to the other to get the exact measurement.

Top 7 Dresses for Broad Shoulders

And now we finally come to the best part of this article. I believe that you are already very impatient to see all those beautiful dresses for broad shoulders that will perfectly fit your body shape!

Without further ado, let’s take a look!

1. Peplum dresses

We’ll start our list with timeless peplum dresses that are a must-have piece for any woman with broad shoulders. This dress is characterized by the fabric sewn above the hip area. Thanks to this detail, the peplum dress draws attention from your broad shoulders to the bottom since you will get more volume in the waist area and thus balance your proportions.

Just look at this beautiful gown that exudes the vintage and romantic vibe:

The influencer and artist Emilia chose a peplum dress with a floral pattern that flares slightly towards the bottom. Floral details on the hips and chest are an excellent choice for visually volumizing narrow hips and a small bust. So, if you belong to the „small bust, broad shoulders“ category, your figure will absolutely love this style!

2. V-neck gowns

Choosing a dress with a V-neck is always a good idea if you have broad shoulders and big arms. First of all, this type of cut elongates your figure, as the narrowing from the shoulder area down to the chest area will result in visually slimmer shoulders. Halle Berry, in the image below, perfectly demonstrates what I mean. 

Halle Berry V-neckline dress for broad shoulders outfit idea
Credit: Pinterest

This actress is known for her athletic figure and proves every time that broad shoulders can look stunning. A red evening dress with a belt on the waist makes the hips look lusher and thus balances the proportions of her body.

3. A-line dresses

Speaking of V-neck dresses for broad shoulders, I will now show you another more dramatic dress in this style. Unlike the previous „big shoulder dress“, the piece has a much deeper V-neckline and flares out towards the bottom in an A-line design. By combining these two styles, your broad shoulders will fall completely in the background. All the focus will go to the lower body, achieving an attractive look, just like pretty Kate Hudson:

Kate Hudson A-line dress for broad shoulders outfit idea
Credit: Style Bistro

Kate decided on a very bold move and chose a deep V-neck dress. Thanks to a pleated flared skirt and a very deep neckline, she transformed her athletic body into a seductive female figure.

4. Dresses with asymmetrical neckline

Although asymmetric necklines are usually designed to emphasize the shoulder area, carefully selected pieces will make the shoulders stand out in a positive way. Strategically designed dresses for broad shoulders will help you elongate your silhouette and distract attention from the upper body, thanks to the diagonal cut.

The beautiful Julia Roberts, another celebrity with your figure type, proudly wears an evening gown with an asymmetrical neckline in the image below:

Julia Roberts dress with asymmetrical neckline for broad shoulders outfit idea
Credit: Vogue

At one of the Oscar ceremonies, Julia wore a Grecian-style dress in bright pink color that looks good on wide shoulders! The diagonal cut achieves balance in the upper body, and the matching belt at the waist makes the hips wider.

5. Cocktail dresses

Okay, you have broad shoulders, which means we should shift the focus to your attractive legs, right? And is there any better way to achieve that effect than wearing some stunning cocktail dress

I recommend choosing the one with a V-neckline or an asymmetrical cut to balance the upper body. Let’s see how Jennifer Garner rocks this style:

A decent, black wrap cocktail dress made her figure look more proportional, while hip pockets added volume to the bottom. Well done, Jen!

6. Bodycon

If you thought A-line gowns were the only option for your figure, don’t worry because having broad shoulders doesn’t mean you have to give up on your favorite bodycon dress. We all love this model because it perfectly accentuates the contours of the silhouette with its tight fit. 

In this case, choose bodycon dresses for broad shoulders with a deeper neckline to properly balance your proportions. Let the following outfit of influencer and singer Nela Vukotic inspire you:

In addition to broad shoulders and big, trained arms, we can see that this beautiful woman has narrow hips, but choosing this bodycon navy dress made that unnoticeable. The plunging dress neckline and material that ties around the neck elongate the upper body, making it slimmer.

7. Kimono sleeve dress

The kimono sleeve dress, inspired by traditional Japanese fashion, and its wide sleeves are a great way to “camouflage” broad shoulders.

These dresses usually have a fold, which additionally balances the body proportions. You can find them in different variants and lengths, and I was personally amazed by the bright yellow kimono dress of fashion designer Rotchelle Parris:

The deep V-neckline narrows the shoulders, while the belt in the waist area creates an hourglass figure.

Wedding Dresses for Brides with Wide Shoulders

For all the brides-to-be with broad shoulders who have problems choosing the perfect wedding dress, it’s time to end that struggle. Your figure can look very attractive if you follow some essential fashion guidelines.

Wondering which ones? Bear with me because I will present you with different models of wedding dresses for broad shoulders that will fit your figure flawlessly.

1. Off-shoulder gowns

Having broad shoulders does not mean you should hide them, but just balance them with the rest of your body. That is why we will start our list with a beautiful off-shoulder wedding gown that looks so feminine and seductive.

However, if you choose this wedding dress model, it is essential that its skirt wides out into a long trail to divert attention from the upper body.

For example, look at the beautiful influencer Sophie Bell in a dramatic, breathtaking gown:

The floral 3D elements cover the whole dress, while the off-shoulder sleeves make the biceps area appear thinner.

2. Dresses with crossover necklines

If you don’t like floral patterns or classic wedding dresses, consider gowns with crossover necklines that look striking and powerful!

In addition, this type of neckline is ideal for elongating the upper part and narrowing broad shoulders.

One of the most famous American fashion influencers and actresses, Olivia Culpo, knows how to rock this style. Let’s take a look:

Olivia Culpo crossover neckline wedding dress for broad shoulders
Credit: Daily Mail

Despite being very petite and having broad shoulders, this woman looks spectacular in this beautiful white dress. The belt further highlights the waist area and makes her figure balanced.

3. Gowns with spaghetti straps

The next type on our list of flattering wedding dresses for your figure is a gown with spaghetti straps. Thin straps will make you look less wide and highlight some of your best features, such as your collarbone and chest.

The beautiful blogger Paula Dhier wore such a dress and proved that broad shoulders could look attractive in it!

In addition to spaghetti straps, her dress comes in the A-line design that creates a balance her shoulders strive for!

4. Mermaid dresses

A mermaid gown is one of the best styles to suit your shoulders. The main benefit of wearing these dresses is that they make the bottom heavy and thus balance the shoulders with the rest of the body.

In other words, the focus goes entirely to the hips. The image below shows what I’m talking about:

The beautiful influencer Kim wears a mermaid off-shoulder wedding dress with a deep but thin neckline. The skirt is also very waisted, which makes the hips broader and more attractive, while the shoulders take a back seat.

5. A-line silhouettes

And at the end of my „dresses for brides“  list, please tell me what could look better on broad shoulders than an A-line silhouette? 

A-line gowns are characterized by a cut that widens towards the bottom and thus adds volume to the lower body. This type of wedding dress for wide shoulders is the perfect choice for minimizing the broad upper body.

Let Kate Hudson once again show us how broad-shouldered ladies can shine on any occasion:

Kate Hudson A-line wedding dress for broad shoulders
Credit: Pinterest

With this dress, Kate has combined all the factors essential to reducing broad shoulders – the kimono sleeves, the plunging V-neckline, and the A-line silhouette.

How to Make Broad Shoulders Appear Smaller

Now that we have seen some of the most beautiful dresses suitable for broad-shouldered women, I want to share a few more essentials to help you dress appropriately.

If you follow some basic fashion tips, your broad shoulders will no longer bother you. In fact, you will love them.

Let’s take a look at what you need to do.

Tip #1: Go for dresses with long sleeves

Long sleeves are an excellent option for visually reducing broad shoulders because they work to elongate the upper body. However, there are additional factors you should consider when choosing your perfect dress.

First, choose dark shades, preferably black, because this color has a thinning effect. Second, ensure the dress has a V neckline that will further reduce your shoulders.

Let’s see how the lovely Renée Zellweger balances her proportions by choosing a simple black dress in this style:

Renée Zellweger dress with long sleeves for broad shoulders
Credit: CheatSheet

The black bodycon dress with long sleeves looks fantastic, and the broad shoulders are completely lost in the background. Narrow sleeves make the whole arms, including the shoulders, thinner and longer. 

Tip #2: Buy cardigans

To further feminize your shoulders, opt for a good layering piece! The best choice for covering your shoulders are cardigans that can elongate the figure and slim the upper body.

Here, opt for cardigans made of thin materials to avoid creating volume in the shoulder area. If you are wondering what to choose, check out the outfit of Kaia Gerber, who decided to cover her flowing floral dress with a thin, short cardigan.

Kaia Gerber cardigan to conceal broad shoulders
Credit: Teen Vogue

Choosing a short cardigan is always a good idea because it emphasizes the waist and creates an hourglass figure. As we can see, it also has a pronounced V-neckline, which achieves the effect of slimmer shoulders.

By the way, if you’re wondering how to style sweaters over dresses, check out my guide.

Tip #3: Accentuate your waist with a belt

If you want to make the body look proportional, it is important to focus on the waist, as it creates the transition between the upper and lower body. So, if it is invisible, the body will look unbalanced. A belt is your best friend here since it can create curves in the hip area and thus draw attention away from broad shoulders.

Since Halle Berry is one of the most famous representatives of your figure type, let’s see how she dominated this style:

Halle Berry accentuating waist to distract attention from broad shoulders
Credit: Pinterest

Halle wears a beautiful dress with a crossover neckline and a wide belt just below the bust. Her gown slightly flares towards the bottom, creating a flawless appearance and a balanced figure.

Tip #4: Wear a long-sleeve jacket over a dress

Let’s go back to layering pieces of clothing and their advantages for broad shoulders. If you want your shoulders not to be in the foreground, choose a light jacket to wear over your dress. 

However, be careful, the jacket can have the opposite effect if you don’t choose the right one. Avoid models with puffy sleeves and shoulder pads. Instead, wear a timeless jean jacket that will look great on your upper body and hide broad shoulders.

Let’s see how Demi Lovato does that:

Demi Lovato jean jacket to cover broad shoulders
Credit: Hawt Celebs

Demi partially covered her broad shoulders with a cropped jean jacket and visually slimmed her waist with a black belt, thus making her figure look more proportional.

Tip #5: Add dress shirts to the outfit

Let’s continue in the same tone and discover the third idea of how to cover shoulders in a dress. You can achieve a balanced body effect with the help of an ordinary dress shirt. In addition to making you look more handsome than ever, the shirt will take the whole outfit to a higher level.

Check out how excellent blogger Cyndi Spivey looks in her colorful maxi dress and plain white dress shirt:

Cyndi Spivey dress shirt to cover broad shoulders
Credit: Pinterest

The shirt is tied at the waist, giving the body an hourglass shape, while high collars and a V-neck narrow the upper body.

Tip #6: Wear wide-leg pants to balance broad shoulders

Now we’re going to move away from dresses for broad shoulders, and I’m going to share with you a fashion hack on how to minimize the upper body by wearing wide-leg pants.

Choose a tight, darker T-shirt with a deeper neckline and light wide-leg trousers to make the shoulders look narrower and the hips wider. This way, you will achieve contrast, i.e., balance your shoulders, arms, and chest with your hips and legs.

Let’s see how actress Deepika Padukone dominates this style:

Deepika Padukone wide leg pants to distract from broad shoulders
Credit: IWM BUZZ

Deepika wears faded high-waisted wide-leg jeans and a deep V-neck top that makes her upper body look slimmer and more attractive.

Tip #7: Invest in a full A-line skirt

And finally, let’s move away from both dresses and pants and give some attention to skirts. We’ve already talked about how A-line silhouettes are ideal for balancing broad shoulders, so purchasing an A-line skirt sounds like a great idea.

In this way, you will achieve narrowing of the waist, adding volume to the lower part and automatically diverting attention from the arms and shoulders.

For instance, I decided to single out the energetic and lively outfit of blogger and stylist Nikolina Borg. Check this out:

Nikolina wears a top with an asymmetric neckline that reduces the width of her shoulders, while a colorful striped skirt adds volume to the lower body. Everything looks so cheerful, beachy, and summerish!

Things to Avoid if You Have Wide Shoulders

Alright, now we’ve covered the best clothes for broad shoulders. However, there are also some fatal mistakes that you should not make.

So, the things to avoid are:

  • Shoulder pads

As their name suggests, this detail adds volume and a rectangular shape to the shoulders. Since you want to achieve a completely different effect, don’t use shoulder pads.

  • Strapless dresses

Strapless dresses will put too much focus on the entire upper body, including the shoulders, so avoid gowns of this type. However, if you decide to wear it anyway, consider a jacket or cardigan to minimize the shoulders’ width.

  • Structured shoulders

Dresses with structured sleeves that look too rectangular will achieve the same effect as shoulder pads, so you should avoid them too.

  • Round-neck dresses

Round necklines are the next thing you should not wear with broad shoulders because they add extra volume to your upper body. Instead, opt for V-necklines that elongate the figure.

  • Tube tops

Speaking of the necklines, the straight neckline of the tube tops is another undesirable thing. Such tops will visually enlarge and expand the upper body; we don’t want that.

  • Puffy sleeves

Although you may like puffy sleeves, your broad shoulders don’t like them at all. Too massive and voluminous sleeves will maximally expand the arm and shoulder area and make the body even more unbalanced.

You see, it’s easy! There are not many restrictions for outfits for broad shoulders, right? Now remember or write down these tips, and I’m sure you won’t make a mistake when choosing your next attire.

Over to You

And that’s it, my dear readers! This concludes my guide for broad-shouldered ladies, and I hope you enjoyed it.

To sum up what we have covered so far:

  • Choose V-neckline dresses for wide shoulders.
  • Focus on highlighting the lower body.
  • Opt for A-line silhouettes.
  • Choose the right covering pieces, such as a short cardigan or cropped jean jacket.
  • Wear high-waisted, wide-leg pants.
  • Don’t wear round-neck or strapless dresses.
  • Avoid shoulder pads.

If you liked this guide, I have good news! You can enjoy many more articles related to fashion, beauty, and home improvement on my blog. Happy reading!

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