Loose ruching (shown below) can be very flattering on fuller figures because it creates a natural flow in the dress. Pleats, particularly ones with a lot of structure like the knife pleats above, are perfect for athletic body types that are looking for the illusion of an hourglass figure. The most famous example of this? Kate Middleton. She has smaller hips, so to balance her enviable figure out she wears fit and flare dresses with pleats.
But first, let's get down to basics. You may be wondering what exactly "ruching" is. Think of ruching as something in between loose gathers and pleats. For example, if you look at the dress below, you'll notice that at the waistline the fabric is gathered together. The effect is a ruched skirt. Ruching can also run horizontally on bodices, but most of the examples you will see here feature vertical details. The great thing about vertical ruching? It draws your eye down, creating a longer silhouette.
This dress (below) features both vertical and horizontal ruching. The bodice is gathered in a separate direction than the fabric at the waist. This does a couple of flattering things, particularly for apple-shaped figures. First, the detail is in the top of the dress, drawing eyes away from problem areas like the stomach or hips. Second, the skirt is heavily ruched enough that it shouldn't cling too much (as long as you have the correct fit).
A simple ruched dress like the one above would work well on more petite ladies, whereas the heavily ruched sheath below would be fantastic on women with an hourglass shape.
I'm not going to lie to you. The navy dress below isn't meant for everyone. It takes a mad amount of confidence to pull off. But if you've got it, flaunt it. The ruching around the flared portion of this dress adds tons of volume and va-va-voom.
This dress below may be one of my favorite bridesmaid dresses, ever. And for those of you with slimmer and athletic figures, it was made for you. These sharp knife pleats are 0% forgiving to those of us with fuller figures, but create instant shape to those of you who would like to look a little more bootylicious, thankyouverymuch. The combination of the blouson bodice with the boatneck-halter neckline and the amazing coral shade is pure effortless chic.
Knife pleats can be wide (above) or so sharp that they are almost miniscule (below). No matter which they are, please keep in mind that they are a little high maintenance in the transport department. Ask your bridal salon for advice on how to keep them at their sharpest (different fabrics will require different care).