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What Is A Shift Dress and How To Wear One

Shift dresses are everywhere, and it seems like everyone is wearing one, but what exactly is a shift dress?

A shift dress is the perfect go-to dress style for work and play. Its loose, comfortable fit makes it easy to wear during your daily activities, but when you’re going out, its stylish design will make sure you look great. 

Today I’m going to talk about the history of the shift dress and how to wear a shift dress. This perfect dress is a wardrobe staple and is an excellent option for most different body types!

I hope this inspires you to get your own shift dress or gives you new ideas on how to wear one you already own!

How to wear a shift dress

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What Is a Shift Dress?

First things first, what is a shift dress? The defining characteristic of a shift dress is its loose fit – it’s also called “hanging dress” because most styles fall on the body without any support. It’s cut to fall above the knee, and the neck is typically a scoop neck or boat neck.

A shift style is any garment that has straight lines – no darts or seams at the waistline. Instead, the darts are around the bust.

The sleeveless shift dress and its simple lines have been around for centuries, getting popular in the 1920s during the flapper movement.

Shift dress with long sleeve blouse underneath and white booties

Dress | Long Sleeve Shirt | Boots

The modern version was created by Coco Chanel in 1954 when she wanted something more comfortable than her usual corseted dresses. Her creation became an instant hit with women all over Europe and eventually made its way to America, where it remains popular today.

The shift dress trend got another boost from Lilly Pulitzer and her bold prints and brightly colored dresses! This helped it see a revival in the 1960s when Jackie O was seen wearing one. Nothing like a celebrity wearing something to make it on-trend again!

Why is it Called a Shift Dress?

There seems to be a few different reasons why it’s called a shift dress, but the most common one is because they’re easy to move, or shift, in! Flappers began wearing them for that exact reason.

Shift Dress vs. Sheath Dress

Shift dresses and sheath dresses are often confused with each other. A shift dress is a classic style that’s designed to hang from the shoulders, while a sheath dress is fitted and more body-conscious – it usually features darts on the waist for shaping and is meant to be form-fitting.

How To Wear A Shift Dress?

How to Dress a Shift Dress for the Office

Belt your shift dress and add pumps for an office look


I would venture to guess that a shift dress is one of the easiest things to wear to the office! It’s professional and chic without even adding anything to it.

You can pair it with a pair of simple pumps and belted to give you a bit of definition.

Add a blazer to your shift dress for a professional vibe in colder months

Dress | Blazer

Add a blazer for fall or winter months to keep warm or add an even more professional vibe to your outfit.

How to Dress a Shift Dress Up

Add a fun jacket to a shift dress for a night out

Dress | Jacket | Boots

A classic shift dress is great for work, but you can also wear it out at night. Pair a shift dress with a fun jacket or shoes and add statement jewelry to make it appropriate for a night out.

How to Dress a Shift Dress Down

Dress a shift dress down with casual white sneakers

Dress | Sneakers

A shift dress is a great choice for a casual look, and you can dress them down easily.

You can pair a shift dress with some flats or sandals and put on your favorite accessories to make it even more relaxed.

Layer a sweatshirt and wear sneakers with a shift dress for a casual look

Dress | Sweatshirt | Sneakers

In cooler months you can even layer a sweatshirt over it! The options are endless!

How to Wear a Shift Dress in Summer

Wear strappy sandals with a shift dress in the summer


A shift dress is an easy and comfortable choice for summer. How to wear a shift dress in summer depends on the style of your dress.

A lightweight cotton or linen shift dress is perfect for summer. You can easily pair it with a strappy sandal, ballet flats, or white sneakers and be ready for the day!

For a day at the beach, choose a dress in a swimsuit-friendly fabric like cotton voile or chiffon. Your shift will feel breezy and comfortable in summer – just put on some flip flops, and you’re good to go!

How to Wear a Shift Dress in Winter

A sweater and booties make a shift dress appropriate for winter

Dress | Sweater| Boots

If you want to wear a shift dress in winter, try something made from wool or cashmere with a warm lining.

Add a cardigan, leather jacket, or blazer over the top. Or you can add long sleeves underneath such as a turtleneck or body suit to keep you toasty warm.

Ankle boots and a long sleeve blouse under the shift dress make it great for fall

Dress | Long Sleeve Shirt | Boots

Add ankle boots or thigh-high boots for a fun vibe. Black tights give you a polished look that’s perfect for the office or other formal occasions.

How to Wear a Shift Dress in Fall/Spring

Layer a denim jacket over a shift dress for spring

Dress | Jacket | Boots

When spring comes around, don’t think you can’t wear your favorite shift dress. In the fall and spring, it’s all about layering.

Add a long-sleeved shirt underneath and some tights if you’re going out at night, or just add a warm jacket over the whole thing for daytime.

What Shoes to Wear with a Shift Dress

Wear a shift dress with a duster and booties

Dress | Duster | Boots

As shift dresses are made to be so easy and effortless, it’s easy to pair them with any kind of shoes. You can go for a classic pump or try some more unusual options like fun sneakers!

How To Pair a Shift Dress With Accessories

It depends on which accessories you choose, but they can be a great way to bring your dress to the next level. You don’t need much when you’re wearing a shift but if you want, add some earrings or a necklace – it’s all up to you!

6 Shift Dresses to Try

6 best shift dresses

1. Sleeveless Split Neck Shift Dress | 2. Halogen Pleat Detail Shift Dress | 3. Chambray Shift Dress | 4. Lilly Pulitzer Sophiletta Shift Dress | 5. White Breezy Shift Dress | 6. Plaid Pleated Dress

1. Sleeveless Split Neck Shift Dress

This is the one I bought! It comes in 6 different colors with a split neck neckline and a seam down the front.

It has a slight stretch to it and hits just above the knee making it great for work or date night!

2. Halogen Pleat Detail Shift Dress

If you love pockets, you’ll love this one! This adorable v-neck shift dress has hidden pockets and dolman sleeves.

3. Chambray Shift Dress

This comfy chambray shift dress is also one with pockets! The best part is, it was made in a Fair Trade Certified factory.

4. Lilly Pulitzer Sophiletta Shift Dress

I couldn’t NOT have a Lilly Pulitzer shift dress in this round up given her impact on the fame of this dress! This dress has built in UPF 50+ sun protection making it ideal for a day at the pool or hanging outside!

5. White Breezy Shift Dress

This beautiful Anthropologie shift dress is the perfect option for a bridal shower (if you’re the bride!) or brunch with your man. High neckline and side pockets make this is elegant yet practical dress!

6. Plaid Pleated Dress

Another beautiful option is this one from Amazon! It comes in a variety of prints from plaid to florals and has fun ruffle sleeves to give it a girly feel!

I hope this helps you know not only what a shift dress is but also some ways to style yours!

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