The History of Shift Dress

Filed under Fashion,News, Tips & Trends 

by Vie on June 4, 2013

Hey ladies, following the post before, I have something interesting to share with you! If you also agree that shift dress is this season’s must-have, then you probably would want to know the history behind this famous type of dress, and lucky for us, we have a special post about it! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy sharing it! : )
The shift dress is one of the most timeless women’s garments. A symbol of sophistication, maturity and style. This classic cut can be beautifully dressed up or down, and has a fit for all seasons. The basic shape of the shift dress makes it an extremely versatile design; leaving plenty of scope for a variety of fabrics and patterns.

Audrey Hepburn Dress

It was Givenchy who was first credited with the creation of the classic shift dress, having designed the iconic black number worn by Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.  Though another story stems from 1950, when Lily Pulitzer (a New York socialite) moved to the fruit groves of Palm Beach, Florida and set up a fruit-stand. She asked her dressmaker to design and produce a dress that would help cover up the regular fruit stains that she would pick-up and so a simple sleeveless design that fell just above the knee was created in bold patterns. Soon her dresses were as popular as her fruit juices and Lily’s customers were asking if they could buy them. Lily began selling them, and when old school friend Jacqueline Kennedy wore one on in Life Magazine, the shift dress trend started throughout America.

It is thought that this shift dress design originated from the ‘sack dress’ a similar style that was redesigned from the flapper gowns of the 1920s – minus the fringing and fuss.

In 1966, London, Mary Quant was responsible for making the mini skirt shift dress a British favourite. It was worn 6-7 inches above the knee and was first modelled by supermodel Twiggy, a teen hairdresser at the time.

In the 1980’s a new form of shift dress appeared, the ‘jumper dress’ which was made from Jersey material and could be layered with a t-shirt or roll neck top and teamed with knee high socks.

Due to their narrow cut, shift dresses have become synonymous with those who have a somewhat boyish figure. The straightness of these simple gowns fit the hips tightly but fall loosely on the waist – a style that’s hard to fit an hourglass figure. Waist definition is usually added through a belt. The neckline of a shift dress is usually boat neck or scoop neck. Today’s most contemporary shift dress ambassador has to be Michelle Obama who is often seen sporting a bright shift dress teamed with an elegant cardigan.

Shift dresses can be found in both high street and designer collections, being a summer and winter staple for the younger and older woman. Recognised fashion brands known for their graceful shift dresses include: Precis, Wallis, Kaliko and Jaegar. Both plain and detailed designs are popular, from retro abstract prints to floral patterns and polka dots.

Buying vintage shift dresses is another popular fashion practice, with original 60’s designs being particularly popular to those with a more eclectic dress sense.—————————————————————————————————————————————–            This special post was written by Ms. Ellen Jones. She is a mature fashion and beauty blogger from the UK. When she’s blogging on her fashion favourites, she loves browsing both high-street and designer collections and has a soft-spot for Precis, Wndsmoor and Kaliko.

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