How to Wear a Shift Dress
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  • Writer's pictureBrenda

How to Wear a Shift Dress

Updated: Feb 13

Shift dresses have become a classic and a wardrobe staple in closets across the world. This dress style can be seen on red carpets, office floors, weddings and parties. I was guilty of sporting shift dresses this entire summer, which you may have noticed if you follow me on the gram.

Depending on the length and style of a shift dress, you could achieve either a more professional look or a more casual look. Nowadays, they come in such a wide variety of styles that regardless of your body shape, you are bound to find a shift dress that suits your personal style and flatters your figure.

First things first though, lets talk about what it takes for a dress to be considered a shift dress.


What is a shift dress?

For a dress to be considered shift style, it has to fall straight from the shoulders. It also includes darts around the bust. Shift dresses also frequently feature a high scoop or boat neck. This style of dress became popular in the 1920s as women started straying from tight corsets and opted for dresses that were easier to move and dance in.

Usually shift dresses tend to be worn by women with narrower hips just because these types of dresses tend to go straight down the body.

Shift dresses are also similar to sheath dresses, which are fitted, straight cut dresses, often nipped at the waistline with no waist seam. They also tend to be knee-length or a little shorter and usually feature short sleeves.

Get the look HERE

A classic shift dress features simple lines, a straight cut and are knee length or above. The straight lines are really what make a shift dress easier to differentiate from other dresses.

In today’s blog post, I would be sharing different ways to style a shift dress for different occasions. If you are looking for some outfit inspiration for styling your favorite shift dress, you would want to keep reading.

Also note that the images below are clickable and so if you see something you like, feel free to click on the picture to be redirected to wear you can add the item in question to your wardrobe.

*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means that I get a small commission if you decide to make a purchase through the links, at no cost to you.

1) With a pair of flats

A great way to style a shift dress in a casual manner is by throwing on a pair of comfortable flats. This is a great option if you are dressing up to head to the office or a casual meeting during the warmer months. During the fall, you can add a pair of leggings underneath for an extra layer of warmth.

A leather jacket could also be worn as outerwear to make your look sleeker and weather appropriate. Ballet flats are probably my favorite flat shoes to pair with a shift dress thanks to the added femininity they add to this structured look.

Get the look HERE

2) With a pair of sneakers

Another great choice of footwear when casually styling a shift dress is sneakers. As mentioned several times on this blog, my personal preference is a pair of white sneakers but I won’t hold it against you if you opt for sneakers in a different color. I find that this is a chic look you can wear for a brief hike, especially if you get your shift dress from an athletic wear brand such as Lululemon.

Get the look HERE

You could also wear this as an in-between style during your commute to the office before changing into more sensible shoes upon arrival. You could also sport a short dress and sneakers as a laid-back look to the mall or for a walk in the park.

3) With high heels

To achieve a more polished look with a shift dress, you can always choose a pair of strappy heels or a classic pump as footwear. A pair of heels elevates any look and shift dresses are not the exception.

If headed for a cocktail event or a more formal meeting, opt for a knee length dress in a solid color and accessorize with simple jewelry. You can go for a statement necklace if headed for a fancy soirée.

Get the look HERE

Don’t be scared to go for low heels such as a kitten heel if you’re not feeling up to standing for long in higher heels. You can give yourself more of an hourglass shape by adding a skinny belt on top of your dress.

Also consider wearing a blazer if your dress has no sleeves or short sleeves and you’re not comfortable showing your bare arms.

4) With a pair of flat sandals

A great choice of footwear to go with a shift dress during the warmer months is a pair of flat sandals. These could be strappy, chunky or in a bold color. For more of a preppy vibe, tie the sleeves of a cardigan or sweater around your neck and let the sweater drape across your back. For a more casual style, opt for a denim jacket instead of a cardigan.

This is a great way to style a shift dress while you’re on vacation in Europe or America. Add a pair of sunglasses and a cross body bag and you’re good to go.

Get the look HERE

5) With a pair of wedged heels

Wedges and wedged sandals have been known to emerge during the summer or warmer months. They’re a great type of heel to choose when you’re looking for something more comfortable but still adds some height to your frame.

The shift style is so clean and boast simple lines, making it easier to pair with different sort of shoe types, shoe heights and colors. Feel free to add a pop of color to your look by opting for a pair of wedges featuring a bright color.

Get the look HERE

6) With a pair of clear heels

Yes, clear heels are still a trend I’m all over and the proof is in my IG. I still love pairing a lot of my dresses with either clear mules or clear pumps and I show no sigs of stopping. I love how sophisticated they make my outfits look and the best part is, they go with any color of outfit.

I say when in doubt, go with a pair of clear heels. If you are seeking more outfit inspiration for your clear heels, I have an entire post on how to wear clear heels.

Get the look HERE

7) With ankle boots

When temperatures start dropping and you’re thinking it’s time to pack up the shift dresses until the following year, I’m here to tell you that you’re so wrong. Opt for a pair of heeled ankle boots with a pair black tights if you’re headed to more formal occasions during the Fall or Winter. When you still want to look business casual yet warm, try a flat boot instead of a heeled one.

Image source here

You could also try and wear a shift dress with long sleeves to keep your body warm while adopting the shift style. Try wearing a black shift dress with a sleek pointy heeled bootie and a scarf in bold prints for a night out during the cold months. If you own a sleeveless dress, wear a sweater or blouse underneath your dress to create a different look.

I really hope that from this post, you can see that shift dresses can work on many different body types and you don’t have to have a straight figure to rock them. Look for shift dresses that fit more snug at the waist if you have an hourglass figure. You could also cinch your waist by adding a belt.

The right dress is just a click away and this post has several options you may want to check out if you’re in the market for a new one.

If you enjoyed this post, you may want to check out my post on 8 shoes to wear with a high low dress.

I also have this post on what shoes to wear with a shirt dress.

Until the next post,



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