What’s a Shift Dress—and How’s It Different From a Sheath?

Visually, the shift dress calls to mind the aesthetics of the early 1960s, which makes it a natural fit for everything from festival wear to spring and summer party attire. But while the shift dress may conjure up the mid-20th century, its origins are actually much older. In the 1920s, several designers (most notably Coco Chanel) were designing loose, anti-corset dresses in the flapper style, with bare arms and legs, a simple boat neckline, and a straight, boxy waist. These elements eventually gave rise to the shift dress.