How to Successfully Wear a Sheath Dress (and a Shift One too)

Written by wren hampton
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How to Successfully Wear a Sheath Dress (and a Shift One too)
Sheath dresses come in a variety of hem lengths. (Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Sheath dresses and shift dresses are two easy wear and comfortable wardrobe options. Sheath dresses are more fitted, and they designed to accentuate the waistline. They have a zipper on either the back or side. Shift dresses have no seam, and don't define the body as much as the sheath dress. They are made to be loose and comfortable. Since the simple style of these dresses is similar, many of the accessories that you can wear with one dress style can be worn with the other.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Cardigan
  • Thin shirt
  • Belt
  • Bracelets
  • Necklaces
  • Neutral shoes

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    Sheath and Shift Dress Basics

  1. 1

    Choose a sheath dress with a stretchy and heavier fabric. The dress is about the figure-flattering shape and those types of fabric will enhance the look. Shift dresses come in a variety of fabrics as well; pick the appropriate fabric for the occasion. For example, a night out on the town calls for silk or chiffon whereas cotton or cotton-blends are more appropriate for a day at the park.

  2. 2

    Choose solid sheath dresses or ones with small designs; flowers or geometric shapes for example. They look the best on most figures and can be easily worn for business functions. Pick shift dresses in a variety of designs; their more casual nature lends to more variety in patterns. Try on different styles of necklines on either dress to find which is most flattering for your body.

  3. 3

    Try on the dress with a properly fitting foundation (undergarments). Bras are like credit reports in a way; you should have your measurements checked by a undergarment professional at least once. This is especially true when wearing sheath dresses as they fit the body snugly and they will make ill-fitting bras readily apparent. The location of the zipper on sheath dresses will also change the fit of the dress; side zippers will highlight waistlines more than zippers placed on the back.

  4. 4

    Wear a cardigan with either the sheath or shift dress or put a thin shirt underneath both types of dresses if you want to cover your upper arms or for warmth.

  5. 5

    Wear a belt with a shift dress to create a silhouette. Sheath dresses don't need a belt but you can wear a thin belt to accessorise them. Put on chunky bracelets and necklaces with sheath dresses. Choose conservative jewellery with the shift dress or you risk looking overdone. Nude or neutral shoes are best with both types of dresses; otherwise the focus will be on the shoes.

Tips and warnings

  • Plus size ladies should avoid wearing a shift dress without a belt. The loose fitting nature of the dress could be unflattering. A better option is to chose a sheath dress with a "A-line" hem at the bottom. When choosing a very fitted and longer sheath dress, look for ones that have a slit in the back bottom hem to make movement more comfortable.

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