7 Ways to Wear A Shift Dress Without Looking Frumpy

When you want a dress with a little breathing room but that still looks cute, a shift dress is the answer.

Women's floral shift dress

A shift dress is similar to a sheath dress, but here’s the difference. It hangs loosely from the shoulder, falls straight down, and does not cinch at the waist as a sheath. It’s also roomier at the hips. This makes it a casual, comfy dress, especially if you are having a ” fat day.”

Shift dresses were all the rage in the ’60s when Twiggy and Jackie O wore them, which are still popular today. The only problem is that the same thing we love about shift dresses, namely the lack of waist/hip definition, can sometimes make you look heavy and matronly. Here’s what to do to get around that.

shift dress-

1. Wear A Shift Dress that is Slightly Tailored

Some shift dresses are looser than others. Try to find one slightly tailored, nips at the waist, and skims your curves a bit more. 

2. Go for Color or Print

Shift dresses have slight shapes or detail, so to make this type of dress look more exciting and alive, pick one in a bright color or bold pattern.

3. Watch that Your Dress isn’t too Short

Shift dresses tend to be short, which means they are not the best choice if you have heavy thighs.

shift dresses with interesting necklines

4. Choose an Interesting Neckline

Another way to look modern in a shift dress is to pick one with an interesting neckline. Look for lace-up necklines, off-the-shoulder necklines, draped necklines, keyhole necklines, and cold shoulder necklines.

5. Wear Flat or Low Heels

Younger gals often wear shift dresses with heels, which makes the dress look even shorter. A low to medium shoe or flat sandal is the solution and looks especially nice if it’s more on the chunky side. For example, a block heel goes with the mod feel of a shift dress. In winter, a flat boot with opaque tights looks excellent.

women's floral shift dress

6. Leggings Can be Worn with a Shift Dress

An excellent way to get around the short-length problem is to wear your shift dress with leggings. A shift dress looks like a long tunic, and we all know how well tunics go with leggings. Find a shift with a bit of black and wear it with black leggings.

7. Choose Complementary Jewelry

A shift is a bold shape, so don’t go with delicate, dainty jewelry. Keep jewelry minimal but go with a vital piece like a cuff or a pendant necklace. Something with an artistic or modern vibe works with this mod dress style.

8. Try Dressing Up Your Shift Dress

If you have an hourglass figure, you might try belting a shift dress so your waist doesn’t disappear—another way to dress it up-a a leather motorcycle jacket.

The shift is a classic. It’s very figure-flattering, and you can’t go wrong, and it’s an easy, relaxed type of dress when you want to look hip and classy, so try one.

Do you wear shift dresses?

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4 thoughts on “7 Ways to Wear A Shift Dress Without Looking Frumpy

  1. I would never wear leggings with a shift dress. My question is, which shoes? Pumps are classic, but how do you dress it up for a wedding? Solid color, Earrings? Color shoes for midnight navy? Heel height: which looks best with a shift-sleeve dress?

    1. Hi Beth. I get it. Leggings with a dress is not for everyone. It’s a very artsy look. As for dressy shoes, I love a pointy-toe show with a low-medium height since shift dresses are a little shorter. I love slingbacks, and they are very much in style right now. You can wear any kind of earrings, but it’s a wedding so make it sparkly! Hope that helps. Have fun!

  2. Great to have the definition between a shift and sheath dress pointed out, Deborah; thank you. Being busty and having a tummy means many hours of trying on everything. There’s usually something that looks good, but the days of just walking into a shop and buying the thing you love are gone. Sigh!

    1. I don’t care for the legging under-dress look. I agree with the suggestions for the shoe and jewelry choices. Such an elegant look!

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