Fashion Education: Style of Dresses

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Have you ever thought to yourself, what the hell is the difference between a shift and a sheath dress? Or what on Earth is a midi? Well, believe it or not, these terms are relatively new to me too. These styles have been around for ages, it's just that they come in go in popularity. For example, the shift dress was very popular in the 20's and the sheath was popular in the 60's, and in 2013 a version of both dresses graced the runways!

I have put together a simple dress guide (with visuals) so you won't be confused the next time you're watching project runway and Heidi comments on a mini-shift-cocktail dress!

Types of Dresses

A shift dress, or chemise, is a classic, unfitted style of dress that has simple, straight lines and universal appeal

A sheath dress is a simple, straight dress which contains vertical and bust darts for a streamlined, formfitting silhouette. A sheath dress typically falls around the knees or lower thighs.

A shirtdress is a style of dress which borrows details from a man's shirt These can include a collar, a button front or cuffed sleeves. Often, these dresses are made up in crisp fabrics like cotton or silk, much like a men's shirtdress would be. Shirt dresses were sometimes called "shirtwaist dresses" when they first became fashionable during the 1950s. The 1950s version of the shirtdress was launched as part of Christian Dior's post-World War II "New Look" couture designs.

Types of Dresses II

A sari or saree is a strip of unstitched cloth, worn by women, ranging from four to nine yards in length that is draped over the body in various styles which is native to the Indian Subcontinent.
There are more than 80 recorded ways to wear a sari. Fashion designer Shaina NC declared,"I can drape a sari in 54 different styles."

A maxi dress is a floor or ankle length informal dress. Maxi dresses are formfitting at the top and loose flowing at the bottom, cut to flow over the body

A Midi dress is a relatively new fashion term, but refers to a dress that falls at or below the knee, yet higher than the ankle. A midi dress is also known as a "tea length" dress. In previous decades, this dress was for formal events. However, nowadays it can be worn for a variety of occasions.

Types of Dresses III


A mini dress is just a variation of a miniskirt, which contains a hemline well above the knees, generally halfway up the thighs – normally no longer than 10 cm below the buttocks. The popularity of miniskirts peaked in the "Swinging London" of the 1960s, but it is still commonplace among many women, especially teenagers, preteens, and young adults. .

A semi-formal dress, which is shorter than an evening gown. Prior to the mid 20th century this type of dress was known as 'late afternoon.' Christian Dior was the first to use the term "cocktail dress" to refer to early evening wear, in the late 1940s.

A strapless dress or top is a garment that stays put around the upper body without shoulder straps or other visible means of support. The modern strapless dress first appeared in the 1930s, where it was popularized by designers such as Mainbocher.

Types of Dresses IV

A little black dress is an evening or cocktail dress, cut simply and often quite short. Fashion historians ascribe the origins of the little black dress to the 1920s designs of Coco Chanel and Jean Patou intended to be long-lasting, versatile, affordable, accessible to the widest market possible and in a neutral colour. Its ubiquity is such that it is often simply referred to as the "LBD".

A wrap dress is a dress with a front closure formed by wrapping one side across the other, and knotting the attached ties that wrap around the back at the waist or fastening buttons. This forms a V-shaped neckline and hugs a woman's curves. The wrap dress was popularized in 1972 by Diane von F├╝rstenberg, who made it of jersey, knee-length and long-sleeved and was inspired by her divorce

A jumper (in American English), pinafore dress or pinafore (British English) is a sleeveless, collarless dress intended to be worn over a blouse, shirt, or sweater.

Types of Dresses V

Ball Gown
A ball gown is the most formal female attire for social occasions. It is traditionally a full-skirted gown reaching the floor, made of luxurious fabric, delicately and exotically trimmed. A ball gown is often synonymous with an evening gown.

Evening Gown
An evening gown is a long flowing women's dress usually worn to a formal affair. It ranges from tea and ballerina to full-length. Evening wear, sometimes also known as court dress due to its creation at royal courts, for women has its origins in the 15th century with the rise of the Burgundian court and its fashionable and fashion-conscious ruler Philip the Good.

Wedding Gown
A wedding dress or wedding gown is the clothing worn by a bride during a wedding ceremony. Color, style and ceremonial importance of the gown can depend on the religion and culture of the wedding participants. In Western cultures, brides often choose a white wedding dress, which was made popular by Queen Victoria in the 19th century. In eastern cultures, brides often choose red to symbolize auspiciousness. About 75 percent of wedding dresses on the market today are strapless, sleevless gowns, in part because such dresses require less skill from the designers and are easier to alter correctly.

So there you have it! Probably far more information that you ever needed to know about dresses! There are so many more variations on these very basic terms. Most dresses fall under many of these categories, you can have a strapless-sheath-evening gown. The possibilities are endless!

You can also find My Thrifty Chic 


Tamie said...

I was wearing midi skirts in high school, in the early 70's. Not sure if the term was new then.

Scent of style said...

Thank's for this interesting post!

Unknown said...

This is such a useful post! Thank you for sharing

Rachel said...

This is a very educational post, which I liked because just today I was talking on my blog about how I think blogging should be a little more educational! And now you made me want to go dress shopping...

TonyaHarison said...

I don?t know if best practices have emerged around things like that, but I am sure that your job is clearly identified as a fair game. Both boys and girls feel the impact of just a moment’s pleasure, for the rest of their lives.

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