Style Glossary: Of Shifts and Sheaths

Hello ModLovers! This week, I’m taking a cue from Lisa to discuss the difference between a shift and a sheath-cut dress (thanks for the suggestion!). Both made popular in the late 1950’s, these classic cuts are vintage-inspired perfection. We’ll start with the sheath (pictured above).

Read on to learn more about these two ultra-retro styles!

A sheath dress is a fitted, narrow, straight-cut dress that has a defined waistline either implied by vertical darts or a set-in waistline.  The skirt is generally a pencil-cut, falls around the knee, and usually requires a slit to make walking, well…possible! Our Confidential Dress is sheath at it’s best – cool and classic.

Now lets shift (get it?) our attention to our Tectonic Shift Dress! The classic shift dress is a straight-lined, basic dress that is not fitted to the body and can also be known as a chemise. It is generally cut down from the shoulders and can feature bust darts and slight (slight) flair at the hips or a tie-waist to ensure that it won’t look shapeless or baggy. It’s great for warm summer nights!

Which is your favorite? Let me know if you have a fashion term you’d like brought to life. Thanks for reading, and happy shopping!


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  1. Avatar
    Anna H. 07/29/2009 at 2:42 pm #

    I’ll go with the sheath dress any day. I’m a bit busty, so free-form dresses (or tops, for that matter) like shift dresses are not my friends… I need my clothes to be fitted at the waist so I don’t look like I’m hiding a pregnancy! Ha ha. 😉

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    Katie 07/29/2009 at 3:22 pm #

    Ditto to what Anna said about a big bust in a shift dress! I do, however, like a tunic: ’60s style, falls straight but isn’t fitted. I had no idea I might look good in a tunic until a woman at my favorite boutique suggested it. She used to be a personal shopper, so she learned how to match people with flattering cuts of clothing.

    But yes, I always seem to default to a sheath dress. Hugs the curves 😉

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    A.D 07/30/2009 at 5:33 am #

    Never wearing either, but knowing how I have to wear clothes, a shift is better for me! I always liked how they were styled, and I have been hoping to get one. Your article really gave me some more information before I will buy one.

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    Kristin 07/30/2009 at 11:52 am #

    Loved this Lindsay!

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    Orchid Grey 07/30/2009 at 2:11 pm #

    I have been coveting the Confidential Dress for months now (I even did a post about it on my blog)! I love both of these styles, but being curvy in nature, the sheath dress is the way to go for my lady-like frame!

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    Kat 07/30/2009 at 11:31 pm #

    that’s like choosing between heels and wedges.. impossible! I could run around in shifts all day (and often do). A sheath is sometimes (but not always) more daring, overt, and dressy.. and unforgiving! glad to live in a world with both; love your efforts to inform the masses 🙂

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    Belle S. 08/01/2009 at 6:30 am #


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    Kookalouie 08/01/2009 at 9:36 pm #

    Sheath! I’m still crying over a gorgeous Sheath I found in a vintage store when I was in high school. I’m going to have my husband sketch it for me and try to have it reproduced. Thanks for the info!

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    Kitty b 08/03/2009 at 2:48 am #

    I live in shifts and flipflops guess what i pick? 🙂

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    lubna 09/01/2009 at 12:32 am #

    what is a scooter dress?

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    sheath dress 03/30/2010 at 6:01 pm #

    Dresses are beautiful. I love it.

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