the Shift Dress

1920s flapper dress – image source

The past two weeks its been shift pattern madness in the shop and you’ve seen my muslin of the shift dress I’m working on. So what exactly is a shift dress? A sack? A shapeless dress? These are actually the images that used to come to mind when I thought of a shift dress. I did a little more research about shift dresses and came up with a few interesting tidbits.

1920s shift/flapper dress – image source

The shift dress dates back before the 60’s, though I daresay when we hear the words shift dress, the image conjured is one from the 60’s. Well, at least it is for me. From what I’ve read and seen, it dates back to the 20s. When it appeared in that era, girls wore a dress that lacked the “cinched-in” waist, was comfortable, shorter than the other dresses of the era and most importantly – easy to dance in. Ha. Not lacking in scandal either. Women who wore these types of dresses were considered a new breed of woman. Fast forward to the 60s, when women again become tired of the cinched in waist and here we are shifting about in mini A-line dresses, same interest at heart – straight or slightly accented waist, comfortable, short and easy to dance in. They had an almost “space like” effect with that rigid A-line silhouette.

1960s shift dress – image source

Not all shift dresses are completely devoid of fit or figure enhancement either. It’s true that a shift dress does not accent the feminine hour glass figure, but in a way that’s sort of their beauty. They can have rather fantastic pieces effects, small details that complete the overall look and they don’t require alot of fabric. The Valentino Shift – 2 yards. What’s more, you can add accessories, like belts, to cinch in the waist while still retaining the comfort value. Yes, please.

Oolong Dress – image source

And what about cutting it out on the bias? Look familiar? None other than the Oolong from Colette Patterns. And I think what’s great about this dress is that now you have curve enhancement while still retaining comfort without having to wear restrictive underthings. That goes a long way in my book.

So who has a shift dress? Do you love wearing it? It’s back to work on the the Valentino Shift for me. Almost time to put in the zipper. Sigh. I would like to have a serious chat with whoever invented the zipper. There would definitely be raised voices.




6 thoughts on “the Shift Dress

  1. I’m wearing a shift dress right now! I love them because they are super comfortable, I don’t have to worry about visible panty lines and I can just throw it on and look cute!

  2. Well, Vintage me, my favorite dress from the 60’s was a simple A-line shift, white pique, sleeveless, above the knee length. The adornment for this dress were a scallop cut neckline and hem. That’s all. I usually wore a small pin or brooch with it. I was actually thinking about recreating this dress for this summer, with sleeves. Vintage upper arms just won’t work with sleeveless. Timely post. Thanks.

  3. I quite like shift dresses and have owned a couple over the years. Normally I prefer to cinch in my waist and have some figure definition, but there are times when I find it far more comfortable to opt for something looser. I really love the shift dress styles of the 60s and early 70s, though I can rarely pull them off without some sort of alteration (usually adding some sort of darts to the bust area; I need a teeny bit of shaping!). Which is probably why I keep buying vintage shift dress patterns… lol.
    ♥ Casey

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