Shift Dress vs. Sheath Dress: Which Is Best for Me?

Shift Dress vs. Sheath Dress: Which Is Best for Me?

If you’re looking for a versatile dress style, consider the shift and/or sheath. Although these women’s dresses share similarities, there are some distinct differences that set them apart. Here’s what you should know about shift and sheath dresses:

What Is a Shift Dress?

The shift dress is sure to become one of your favorite styles once you give it a try. This dress style hangs in a straight line from the shoulders to the hem, with darts at the bustline. The cut gives the shift dress a roomy feel that flows well for every body type. Some shift dresses have pleats to further enhance the way the fabric falls.

When it comes to necklines, you’ll find scoop-neck shift dresses in various sleeve lengths. Sleeveless and short-sleeve styles are great for summer; you can also wear a 3/4-length sleeve in warm weather if it’s made from a lightweight fabric. Cotton is an excellent material for shifts because it’s light and airy. Look for cotton dresses with a touch of spandex for the perfect amount of structure and stretch.

Shift dresses come in various colors and prints. If you want a dress for most casual to semi-dressy occasions, you can’t go wrong with a shift in basic black or navy. Vibrant prints give any dress a summery look; wear a floral-print shift dress on a shopping trip or for a lunch date. You can also wear a printed shift dress to the office, especially when you pair it with a summer sweater and no-nonsense footwear such as black or nude pumps with a low-to-medium heel height.

What Is a Sheath Dress?

Sheath dresses come in the same hem and sleeve lengths as shift dresses. The difference is in the cut and the fit. While shift dresses are roomy, sheath dresses are form-fitting without being tight. For a sleek look that’s still modest enough for the office, wear a sheath dress with a blazer or pair it with a cashmere cardigan for a luxe touch. This dress style is casual enough to wear on the weekends and formal enough to wear to work. It can be dressed up or down with footwear and accessories. For a casual movie date or girls’ night, wear a shift dress with ankle boots and a denim jacket.

If you’re heading to work or a high-end restaurant, wear your shift with a pair of heels and a classic pearl necklace. Or rock an on-trend look by wearing a black shift dress with black riding boots. You can wear a shift dress with nude pantyhose or black tights depending on your fashion preference.

Other Types of Women’s Dresses

There are plenty of other dresses to consider besides shift and sheath styles. If you like the look of a shift dress, you might also like a T-shirt dress. They come in knee-length styles and ankle-length styles and sizes to fit every body type. These dresses have a casual look that can be accessorized with a belt and gold- or silver-tone jewelry; another option is a long necklace or grouping of layered necklaces in varying lengths.

If you love a sporty look, wear an oversized hoodie with a T-shirt dress and a pair of sneakers. When shopping for a hoodie, you can buy from either the women’s or men’s department because the sizes are similar. For example, a women’s size Small hoodie has a similar fit to the men’s Small hoodie—except the men’s size fits a little roomier. Comfy hoodies come in many colors and some have soft fleece lining for a plush feel.

The maxi is a great choice if you prefer modest dresses, and it’s ultra-versatile for plenty of wear. This dress style falls to the ankle for a modest look and provides plenty of coverage. There are sleeveless and short-sleeve maxi dresses that you can wear with a cardigan sweater or denim jacket depending on the look you’re going for. A women’s cashmere cardigan sweater is an option when you want to impart a polished look to your dress.

You might also like fit and flare dresses — they’re stylish, can be worn for many occasions, and come in lots of colors and prints. Look for a fit and flare dress in a sleek jersey knit, which is lightweight and machine washable. A small percentage of spandex gives blended fabrics a stretchy fit and smooth feel, which is exactly what you want in this type of dress. Top it with a flowy cardigan or go for office-appropriate style with a tailored blazer.

Midi and Maxi Skirts for Women

No discussion about dresses is complete without a mention of a great fashion alternative: skirts. There are mid-length skirts and ankle-length skirts in various styles that provide the look of a dress with the versatility of separates. Skirts can be worn with many different top styles, from silk and linen women’s blouses to tunic tops and cotton knits. A midi skirt in black or navy, for example, can be worn with almost any top in your closet to create lots of different outfits.

Now that you know the difference between the shift, sheath, and other dress styles, all that’s left to do is go shopping. All these dresses can be worn in a variety of ways, making them a wardrobe staple for multiple seasons.


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