The shirt dress is an an article of clothing with a storied history that was originally popularized in the 1950s. It’s gone through many iterations since then and spawned variations like the T-shirt dress as well. With its button front and loose fit, it looks great on just about any body type, comes in lots of different styles and cuts, and can be accessorized for nearly endless looks.
What’s a Shirt Dress?
But before we get ahead of ourselves, a basic definition for the uninitiated: a shirt dress is, as the name would suggest, a dress that borrows elements from a formal button-up shirt. They often—though not always—feature collars, button fronts, and cuffed sleeves. The fabric often has a similar feel to a dress shirt, most often being made of cotton or silk, and there is usually no seam at the waist, meaning a belt is needed if a defined waist is desired.
History of the Shirt Dress
Historically, shirt dresses first saw a widespread appeal in the early 1950s. Christian Dior is credited with the popularization of the style, as it was part of his post-World War II “New Look” designs. This version was still a bit impractical as it necessitated the use of crinoline to hold up the full skirt, but it was the predecessor for the modern design.
The shirt dress continued to evolve, and by the 1960s, shirt dresses more like the predominant styles today could be seen, with the same button front, collar, and cuffed sleeves, but with a more sensible loose skirt, no crinoline necessary.
One variation that was first spawned in the 1960s was the T-shirt dress, which is pretty much what it says on the tin; an elongated t-shirt meant to be worn like a dress.
Shirt Dress Styling Tips
The shirt dress is an incredibly versatile piece of clothing with many potential outfits possible. Generally, you’ll want to cinch up the waist with a complimentary belt to add definition to the otherwise loose, flowy nature of the dress, but it’s not necessarily a must, especially with something like a slim denim shirt dress, which can be a complete outfit with a simple hat, statement necklace, sneakers and a crossbody bag.
Adding a matching jacket and belt (the base color and color of the buttons/buckle/etc should match each other on the belt and jacket) can totally change the look, especially if you make the belt, jacket, purse, and shoes all matching, with the dress itself in a contrasting color for a nice visual “pop.”
Tights or leggings make shirt dresses an option in cooler weather too, and can be complimented with a matching scarf for a bit of flair. Another idea is to put a crop top in a contrasting color over your shirt dress to break up the somewhat baggy nature of the dress.
However you wear your shirt dresses, make sure to own it and make it your own. After all, trends are trends, but what really makes a style shine is the personal touches.