Make the shift dress work for you

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Shift dresses originated in the 20’s.  Think flapper dresses.  The defining feature was a straight silhouette with no definition of the waist. Kind of like a potato sack, but with fringe.  Great look for a lanky body, but not so good for the curvy ladies.  Interestingly, the shift dress once again fell into favor in the 60’s due to Lilly Pulitzer, a Palm Beach juice stand proprietor, that wore brightly colored shift dresses.  Her customers took notice, so she began selling them, and they became known as the “Lilly” dress.  Jackie Kennedy was photographed for LIFE Magazine wearing one, and they took off in popularity.  And then there was Twiggy, who also made the shift dress an icon.  When I think of shift dresses from the 60’s, I can smell and feel the polyester overload.  Nowadays though, lots of shift dresses have been updated with a little more shape, and different fabrics.  Let’s take a look at some, and talk some tips, for making the shift dress work for your body.


A really cute, modern take on the shift dress that’s made from 100% cotton.  Rather than being fully rectangular, this dress flares slightly into an A-line.  This cut can work on both straight and curvy body types.  If you still want more shape, wrap a wider belt around your waist to cinch the dress in.  Or, use a brightly colored scarf and tie it around your waist to add shape.  This dress ships from Land’s End Canvas.  It’s on mega clearance, down from $69.50 to $13.  Of course there’s a catch.  It’s only left in size 10.


Here’s an all polyester shift dress from designer Ellen Tracy, that utilizes a bold graphic print to slenderize.  Notice how the lines sweep straight down the middle than flare out at the hips.  I really like the white button details on the back.  This dress would work for a slightly curvy body, but due to the length, really curvy girls should pass this one up.


Here’s a fun take on the shift dress from Tahari that would much better accentuate a curvier body.  The waist is banded, which lends shape to the dress.  The gold horsebits on the pockets and the buttons on the shoulders make this a perfect derby dress.  The length is great for curvier girls too.  Try to keep it knee length, or just above, to create a longer, leaner line for your body.  The one problem larger busted girls might run into is, well, not enough room where it’s needed!  Don’t be surprised if you get a little smooshed in a dress like this.


This lovely shift dress from INC International Concepts seems inspired by Indian fashion.  It has a nice cut, and A-line to the skirt, that will enhance shape.  The length is nice too, but I bet it rides up a bit when seated (a drawback to short shift dresses).  The embroidery and rhinestone embellishment add fun and slenderizing details.  Perfect for an outdoor wedding.


Now this shift dress from ASOS definitely draws inspiration from the 20’s version of the fashion.  I love the length of this dress, and the tiered panels at the waist and hemline.  It’s a very delicate, and pretty look.  I think this dress would look best on slender bodies, but I think a curvier lady could pull it off as well.  The paneling at the waist breaks the dress up enough.  What do you think?


2 Responses to “Make the shift dress work for you”
  1. Belle says:

    I love the ASOS dress. You are right that is would look best on a slender build and I think it’d also be better if you are tall. I can see this dress hitting the leg at the wrong length and making the wearer look stumpy. It is a gorgeous and feminine dress for the right person. I only see the 4 and the 12 left on the website.