A classic shirtdress is a wardrobe piece that every woman should have hanging in her closet. After all, there’s a reason that shirtdresses have been adored for over 65 years. In the 1950s, Christian Dior launched this new silhouette as part of his post-World War II “New Look” designs. The style eventually evolved into a more casual item sans crinoline, and became a beloved everyday staple that has stood the test of time. Fashionistas with a variety of personal sartorial flair have reimagined this classic item into a modern basic that everyone should embrace. Whether you want to show some leg to sex it up or add a blazer for a business vibe, the shirtdress can work on everyone for just about any occasion.
Alison Lang, Stylist and President of Alison Lang Style, is a strong proponent of this simple but elegant attire: “The shirtdress is very versatile and a great piece to pack when traveling. You can wear it during the day with a ballet flat, cute sun hat and leggings, over a bathing suit with a pair of flip flops, or dress it up for a sexy night time look, unbuttoned with heels and long earrings. It is flattering on most body types and looks very polished.”
Feeling crafty? Lucky for you, a shirtdress is one of the easiest things to make yourself. After finding an oversized oxford shirt, try one of these five DIY additions to modernize the look.
1. To define your waist, cinch your middle with a statement belt or even a thick ribbon tied in a bow at your back.
2. If you have basic sewing skills, put them to the test by adding some lace to the cuffs or fringe to the hem.
3. With a large pair of shears, slash off the sleeves for a warm weather look. Alternately, carefully cut off the sleeves and the top portion of the back of the shirt for a halter style to show off your shoulders.
4. If cutting a shirt makes you a bit nervous (not all of us have the Martha Stewart gene!), try buttoning the collar around your chest instead of your neck. Then, tie the sleeves around your waist for a flirty bandeau style. Note that this works best with a roomy shirt… we highly recommend snagging one from your man or brother.
5. To spruce up a white shirt, consider tie-dying it a bright color. This bohemian flare will make a shirt dress perfect for the beach.
Or, try one of these designer alternatives, no DIY necessary:
Carolina Herrera Three-Quarter-Sleeve Bubble-Jacquard Shirtdress ($2690)
Tanya Taylor Mia Embroidered Stretch Cotton Shirtdress ($595)
Kate Spade New York Tobin Shirt Dress ($428)
T by Alexander Wang Oversize Cotton Poplin Shirt Dress ($405)
Polo Ralph Lauren Pleated Cotton Shirt Dress ($165)
H&M Crepe Shirt Dress in Light Beige ($35)
-Casey Sharbaugh currently resides in New York City and works in the fashion industry. Find her on Twitter at @caseyhshar