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Shaping up for the Holidays

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You may think that little red number you saw in the store window would be perfect for the holiday cocktail party you're planning on attending. Before you even try it on, though, there's something else to consider: Will the style of the dress flatter your own unique body shape? You'll save yourself time and frustration by following a few tips from California designer Kirstie Kelly whose collections of dresses have been flattering a variety of shapes and sizes for years.

Here are Kelly's tips on what to wear for any festive occasion:

—Exaggerated A-line shapes in knee-length dresses are perfect for those of us with ample hips because the skirt flows right over our problem areas. Kelly's holiday collection features a red A-line dress with a square neckline — "perfect for a bright statement-making necklace," she says.

—Ample figures will also benefit from flowing knee-length dresses in chiffon. Check out extra stylish details like cap sleeves and empire waistlines accented with a textured bodice for more flair.

—The asymmetrical neckline is one of Kelly's favorite ways to stand out this holiday season. Her floor-length chiffon gown features a ruched bodice and a detailed floral strap. "This look is flattering on women with an inverted triangle figure and calls for delicate jewelry," she says.

—For more formal occasions, the California designer suggests accentuating an hourglass figure with a fitted dress that features a sweetheart neckline in long or short hemlines. "A sophisticated shawl is a smart addition for chilly, winter nights," says Kelly.

—And yes, you can show a little skin. "There's nothing wrong with a bit of decolletage," she says, "but keep it tasteful by covering up somewhere else.

Balance a low-cut neckline with a semi-full skirt." And if you prefer a more modest approach, Kelly likes the design of pleating details at the neckline of a dress with ruffles extending up over the collarbone. "This style of dress is great when you might not want to bare it all," she says. "Then I would add the sparkle of a cuff bracelet."

—If you have a large chest, Kelly suggests redirecting the focus of the dress by wearing a style with chic chiffon sleeves. She also says slightly puffed sleeves and a ruched neckline are perfect for women with fuller hips.

— A shirtdress is another way to dress up for the holiday. "This style works well for women who would like to mask their tummy because it isn't overly clingy," she says. "Just select a thin belt at your natural waistline to add structure and draw eyes upward."

—And for those who prefer pants, take what you have to the next level with a sophisticated, single-button jacket," advises Kelly. "The jacket draws attention to the neckline and chest and falls just at the hips — two important things for any figure." She loves a jacket in a soft, snowy white this holiday season.

—Her last bit of holiday fashion advice? "Don't combine red and green," she says. "It's just too cliche!"

Sharon Mosley is a former fashion editor of the Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock and executive director of the Fashion Editors and Reporters Association. To find out more about Sharon Mosley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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