Fashion Design: The Types of Dresses

Casual strapless short dress.
Casual strapless short dress. (Image: female knitted dress image by terex from

There are many types of dresses in the fashion world. Dresses are one of the key components to a woman’s wardrobe. There are dresses in many shapes and styles designed for a variety of occasions. Dress styles remain about the same from season to season. Designers normally alter the basic dress types to fit the current fashion trends of a given season by varying fabrics and colors.

The Wrap Dress

The wrap dress is a well-known design that gained popularity in the 1970s when designer Diane Von Furstenberg created the style. Wrap dresses are open in the front with a solid back. The dress consists of large piece of fabric (or two pieces of fabric sewed together) that wraps around the front of the body and is held in place at the waist with a button or belt. Wrap dresses can be found sleeveless or in a variety of sleeve lengths such as short, three-quarter length and long. The wrap dress is usually knee length, but the length can vary.

The wrap dress can be worn at work or for a night out with a pair of high heels. Wrap dresses also work well for casual occasions with flat sandals or ballet flats.

The Shift

The shift dress is a simple design with two pieces of fabric sewn together at the shoulders and down the sides. This style of dress does not have a waist, although it can curve inward at the waist. Shift dresses are normally knee length.

The shift can be worn during any season and can be worn for casual, work and special occasions. It can be found in a variety of fabrics such as gabardine (thin wool), silk and cotton. Shift dresses can be worn with high heels or flats.

The Shirt Dress

A shirt dress is a dress that looks like a man’s shirt but is long enough to cover everything that needs covering. The front of the dress has buttons that start at the neckline and reach down to the hem of the dress. Shirt dresses are normally given a waist, often with a belt, and hit around the knee. Shirt dress styles can have short or long sleeves and are considered casual. The shirt dress can be worn with boots or sandals.

The Empire Waist Dress

Empire waist dresses have a waist underneath the bust-line instead of on the natural waistline. The empire waist dress can be found sleeveless, short-sleeved or long-sleeved. Empire waist dresses can be casual or dressy depending on the type of fabric that is used. Silk or chiffon will make an empire waist dress appropriate for prom or attending the opera. An empire waist dress sewn from cotton or wool may have a more casual look that be worn during the day. Empire waist dresses can be worn with sandals, flats or high heels.

The Maxi Dress

The maxi dress is a casual dress normally worn in warm weather. Maxi dresses have spaghetti straps and can be found with an empire or natural waist. The fabric is usually gathered at the waist seams to create a “full” look where the dress flows with movement. The maxi dress is long, where the hemline should hit at the bottom of the ankle. Maxi dresses can be worn with sandals or summer high heels that do not exceed three inches.

The Strapless Dress

The strapless dress can be found in both casual and dressy styles. The casual strapless dress is normally short with a hemline that hits about mid-thigh. Casual strapless dresses can be made with a variety of fabrics including cotton, silk and lace. The casual strapless dress can be worn with flats or sandals. The long strapless dress is normally considered a special occasion dress. Long strapless dresses can have a hemline that hits anywhere between the knee and the ankle. The long strapless dress can be worn with high heels.

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