Pockets & Shirt Dresses . . . Full Bust Fit and Proportion Considerations

[Leah is finishing a busy stretch of weekend weddings and lots of work, so Off the Rack will be back soon!]

I was reminded of our big bust fit issues after I bought this size 12 Ralph Lauren shirt dress at my favorite discount store.  Sure, the dress gapped in the dressing room, but I figured I’d safety pin it and be good to go. The first day I wore it, I was constantly aware of the fabric straining at my chest and pulling from my armholes to create enough volume. I’ve been wearing my own shirts so much that I’d forgotten what it was like to wear a button up that doesn’t provide enough fabric for a large bust.


The ace bandages have been replaced by a cast for my wrist and a boot for my ankle–I fractured them on Saturday when I landed on a dumb bell in boot camp and reached back to catch myself.

Now I’m used to it (is that a good thing?), and there are three reasons I bought this dress despite the gap:

  1. The warm color (a color analyst had just scolded me for wearing cool colors earlier in the week);
  2. I’ve been wanting and wanting a shirt dress, and the price was perfect even though the drawstring sleeves are less than classic; and

When we lost DD Atelier, we lost a source for affordable shirt dresses for large-busted women, but happily Bravissimo is offering one in its latest collection.

bravissimo denim shirtdress

However, it always surprises me when a busty clothing company makes a big bust look even bigger by using small chest pockets. Yes, we CAN wear chest pockets, but as I discovered six years ago, each chest pocket should be slightly larger than the breast it covers.

breast pocket comparison

I fell in love with the style of this Macy’s brand dress (no chest pockets!) at the same store, but even I wouldn’t try to pin this one.

shirt dress black

For the past few months, I’ve been eyeing shirt dresses everywhere. Besides fit at the bust, what does YOUR dream shirt dress look like?




  1. I didn’t know there was a clothing company making garments to accommodate large busts! Thank you for that link – I love that denim shirt dress and I’ll have to look more closely at their sizing chart.

  2. Sorry you’re hurt, Darlene! I love a good shirt dress. My dream one is the lands end chambray shirt dress from 2010 – classic 50’s housewife kind of dress with 3/4 sleeves, buttons to the waist, full gathered skirt with pockets that hits just below the knee. I have it in a size that accommodates my bust and shoulders, and plan to get it tailored so I can wear it this fall.

  3. Good point about small pockets over the bust, this dress is also a bit short, often a problem with Bravissimo. The pale khaki shirtdress is so much more flattering on a non-model and the colour lights you up. Hope you mend quickly