There are so many different types of dresses and fashion icons to follow. Getting dressed up means different things to different people. Dress styles are affected by the length of the dress, the shape and the cut of the dress. Necklines, fabrics and sleeves affect dress styles as well as traditional clothing and influences from the past.
Types of Dresses
One of the worlds most well-remembered designers, Coco Chanel, once said: “Dress shabbily and they remember the dress. Dress impeccably and they notice the woman.”
With this comment in mind take a look at the following list of different types of dresses. Remember within each style the neckline, sleeve, collar or length of the dress can add to the design and effect.
Here are 51 best-loved and beautiful dress styles.
The A-line dress fits snugly to the hips and then has a flare that gives fullness and the A-line shape. This style is flattering for the pear-shaped figure. The amount of flare can be slight or quite large. When laid on a table an a-line shape looks triangular with the bottom being wider than the top. Slits are not needed in this style as the wider hem makes it easy to walk in.
An apron dress is sleeveless. It is based on an apron style with a bib at the front of the dress. The apron dress resembles the pinafore dress, but often has extra frills and can be worn over another simple dress.
There are many variations to this type of dress. The hem can be at different lengths or it may have a sleeve on one side and not on the other creating an asymmetrical look.
Baby Doll Dress
The bodice of the baby doll dress is fitted and usually under the bust. The skirt falls loosely from the bodice and is gathered. This style is often used for night dresses and was popular in the 90s.
There are many variations to the ballgown. It may follow different styles like the mermaid or princess cut, but it will always be a formal, voluminous dress. It is designed to create an entrance.
The balloon dress has a full skirt and the bottom of the skirt is gathered into a band that is narrower than the skirt. This gives the balloon effect as the fullness of the skirt balloons over the band creating a round, puffy look. It is usually above the knee. If you are sewing this style, it will take a lot of fabric as it needs to be lined.
The blazer dress is a more formal style because the front fastens to give a double-breasted blazer look. This is a smart-looking dress, suited to all seasons and particularly to the office. Using a belt at the waist gives it some shape. The blazer dress is often cut very short.
The blouson dress is soft, floating and the bodice blouses over the skirt. It is modeled on a blouse effect but has a skirt attached.
A boho dress is a soft floating style reminiscent of the hippy era. They are often white or embroidered and can be combined with lace and tassels. This is a pretty feminine look that is loose and easy to wear.
This style looks like a slip or petticoat. It has thin singlet straps combined with a round or v neck. Soft fabrics suit this style best and it may be cut on the bias to add a little stretch. Often it has a fairly straight and streamlined silhouette but gathers or pleats may be added for a bit of interest.
This dress is formal, but not in the ballgown bracket. Ideal for a drinks party or a business event when you want to dress up a bit. The cocktail dress makes use of different sleeves and necklines to attract attention to its style.
This type of dress is accentuated by a corset that is laced up and fitted over the dress. It has a peasant-like appearance and is flattering to the waistline. The corset can be a contrast or complementary part of the design. The lacing can be at the back or front of the dress.
This is a casual style of dress because it is made in denim. The design of the dress can vary with the addition of collars, sleeves and a button-up or zipper closure. The denim dress is often a pinafore style, but whatever the choice of style, the fabric is always – denim.
Empire Waisted Dress
This line creates a flattering effect as the dress is gathered or attached to the bodice just under the bust. It creates a longer line to the body shape. The baby doll style is a type of empire-waisted dress.
Fit and Flare Dress
A fit and flare dress has a fitted bodice flaring out to a flared skirt. It may or may not have a seam at the waist. This is a popular and flattering style for pear shapes.
Halter Neck Dress
Halter necks flatter slim shoulders and trim arms. They are sleeveless and cut away to the neck where a band or tie holds the dress up. It makes a daring summer look.
It is the hem of the handkerchief dress that gives it its style. The hem hangs at different points giving the idea that the skirt of the dress was made out of handkerchiefs. This is an easy style for sewers to create as the skirt is cut in a square.
The kaftan was originally associated with traditional Turkish, North and West African clothing. Kaftans are made of bright colored fabrics and the pattern is made up of one piece of fabric. It is loose and flowing.
The fabric is doubled over and a seam sewn up to an armhole point. A simple neckline is cut out to enable the dress to pull over your head and there you have a kaftan style of dress. Usually worn to the ankle, this is a lovely dress to throw over a swimming costume or wear on a beach holiday.
A style of dress based on a traditional Japanese form of clothing. It has long flowing sleeves and is usually a wrap-around design. Modern kimono dresses may just take a couple of elements of this design rather than being a faithful reproduction.
Lace dresses can be whimsical and feminine and when done in bold colors are sure to make a statement. Lace is one of the most commonly used wedding and formal fabrics. Most often a lace dress will need to be lined with a flesh colored fabric at the front and back.
Little Black Dress
No dress list would be complete without the ‘Little Black Dress.’ The little black dress is your standard go-to dress for many different occasions. It can be dressed up or down according to the needs of the event.
Karl Lagerfeld said this about the little black dress, “One is never over-dressed or under-dressed with a little black dress!”
Long Sleeve Dress
Long-sleeved dresses are a wonderful choice of style for winter. This dress becomes more formal with the addition of different types of sleeves.
Low or Drop Waist Dress
The drop waist dress features the waist just above the hip line instead of the waistline. This is a flattering dress for the high waisted person needing to elongate their body shape.
Mermaid’s Tail Dress
This dress gets its name from the effect of the addition of a frill or wider part at the bottom of the dress. This is the mermaid’s tail. The flared part can fall from the knee or further down the skirt from the calf. This style of dress can be hard to walk in if the flare starts too low down your leg.
Mini, Midi and Maxi Dresses
These three types of dresses vary according to the length of the dress. Mini being short and above the knee. Midi is mid-calf length and maxi is a full length to the ankles style of dress.
Off the Shoulder Dress
Dresses that slip off the shoulder are great ways to show off slim shoulders and neat arms. The rest of the dress could be straight, flared, A-line or any style that supports the off the shoulder look.
One Shoulder Dress
The one-shoulder dress falls under the asymmetrical style with one sleeve or one strap at the shoulder and the other side bare.
The peasant dress is a popular loose dress with long or short loose sleeves. The sleeves are usually raglan sleeves and the top neckline is gathered or elasticized with a drawstring effect. The neckline can sit off the shoulder for a summery look.
The pencil dress is a straight up and down kind of dress. No frills and a very simple style. The dress is pinched in at the waist and the hem just below the knee to create the slim pencil look.
If you laid this type of dress out flat, it would look like an inverted triangle with the hem being narrower than the hips. To be able to walk, pencil dresses need to be short or have slits at the side or back.
The circular peplum frill added at the waist gives this dress a playful look. The frill could emphasize hips and is not necessarily a dress for the larger hip figure. A peplum frill is usually cut in a circle or half circle.
Also known as the jumper dress, the pinafore dress does not have a collar. The straps of the dress go over the shoulder to meet straps at the back. A shirt or turtle neck sweater is ideal to wear underneath.
Pouffe Sleeve Dress
Usually short, this type of dress has a separated off the shoulder sleeve that is usually gathered top and bottom with elastic. This gives the effect that the sleeves are totally separate and just joined under the arm.
The princess gown creates a full silhouette as the top is tight and the skirt very full and standing out to give the design a princess look.
Qipao Dress (Cheongsam)
This is a traditional Chinese dress dating back to the 17th Century. It has a high neck and a straight skirt often with a slit up the side. The slit can be on one or both sides. Traditionally the Qipao dress was made of silk.
Sari’s are a traditional Indian dress that consist of a long piece of fabric draped around the body.
If you want to appear slim and trim in a figure-hugging dress, this is the style for you. The waistline fits snugly and flatters the hourglass figure. A suitable dress for smart office events or an executive evening out.
Short, simplistic and straight up and down, this is a very popular style. The dress hangs from the shoulders and suits a slender figure.
The shirt dress, as the name implies is like a long shirt. Smart shirt collar and buttons down the front. The hem can be shaped like shirttails. This is a casual, comfortable dress.
The skater dress has a fitted bodice and a very full circular skirt. It is a short style based on the designs used for ice skating. This dress is considered to be a fit and flare type of dress.
The slip dress is modeled on the old fashioned petticoat worn. The slip dress can be worn under a sheer garment. It is usually made of soft silky fabrics and can be cut on the bias for added comfort.
The smock dress is a loose-fitting, comfortable dress. Often the dress part falls from a yolk. It may have short or long sleeves.
Strapless, as the name suggests, has no straps. The dress fits snugly around the bust with elastic or some form of boning to give support. The strapless dress is a great summery look or a very elegant evening dress.
The sundress is a loose-fitting strappy dress designed for summer. The sundress usually has thin spaghetti straps that tie on the shoulders and is tighter around the waist. The skirt is often flowing and made up of beautiful floral fabrics.
A knitted dress with long sleeves, a perfect dress to combine with tights or boots for winter.
The T-shirt dress has a simple round neck and falls straight down to fit loosely. It rests just above the knee and suits any figure.
Tea Length Dress
A classical, Hollywood drama dress. The skirt is a full circle with a length to the mid-calf. It is semi-formal and a style reminiscent of stars like Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Munroe.
The tent dress is a very loose flowing dress. It extends from the shoulders and has an extra-wide hemline. The style looks like a tent when the fabric is held out to reveal the cut of the dress. Tent dresses are usually knee-length and best made in soft flowing fabrics.
This dress, as the name suggests, is a figure-hugging dress that is strapless and cut in a tube. Tight-fitting, it is a lovely summer style that is best suited to stretch fabric.
The tutu dress resembles a mid or long length ballet dress and the skirt is always made of tulle.
This style crosses over and either ties at the side or the back. It is a flattering style and creates a smooth silhouette when tied and draped over the figure. The type of fabric used for this dress is important. It needs to be able to drape and not be too bulky.
The yolk dress can have a yolk fitted at the front or back of the dress or on both sides. The yolk could be a contrast to the overall dress and the rest of the dress hangs loosely from the yolk.
Types of Dresses – In Conclusion
Dressing in today’s world has literally become a form of communication. The types of dresses you wear can portray who you are. Businesswoman, mother, active sportswoman, casual fun-loving outdoor person, busy mom or all of these in one. With so many styles of dresses to choose from you can be anything you want to be.