Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Evolution of the shirtdress

I love shirtdresses for their combination of utility and style. They're proof that one does not have to compromise style for practicality. This is good news for a working mumma like me.

As a lover of vintage clothing, I have several shirtdresses that I've bought over the years. It's while collecting these dresses that I've noticed how this style has evolved. And yet, at the same time, the style really hasn't changed much at all.

At the style's core are two essential qualities; it has a collar and it buttons down the front.  Other than that, the style is pretty versatile -- different fabrics and prints, different lengths and cuts, different collars, etc. The style takes inspiration from the men's tailored shirt and was first offered in silks and cotton. The shirtdress was popular from the start because it offered a more affordable and flattering design for women of all body types. 

In the forties and fifties the shirtdress had a cinched in waist and a full skirt.  Later versions more closely mimicked the men's shirt fit, while the eighties saw a resurgence of the earlier cut. Here's a vintage tip for you: the fifties style and the eighties style day dress or shirtdress are practically identical with the exception of the fabric. Polyester wasn't used for this style until the eighties (yay!).

Buttons down the front also marked a significant change, noting that women could no longer rely on servants or available husbands to do up their dresses for them. To me that says two things; more people had to work and couldn't afford the luxury of a servant and perhaps many women's husbands died at war, which makes me sad.

I think it's really interesting how the style also kept pace with the women's liberation movement as they were becoming more independent and fighting to be seen as equals in society. Fashion really is a commentary of our times. 

Oh, the stories. I love the stories that vintage clothing tells.

The shirtdress is just as relevant today as ever. These dresses (including the one I am wearing) are part of British designer Alex Black's first collection.  She launched the Alex Black Collection right here in Hong Kong about a year and a half ago. She has since released new shirtdress designs which have a fun flirty skirt and are also sleeveless.

While you see that I've styled my shirtdress for winter, it is easily adaptable to other seasons, too.  I took my Tasha dress from the Alex Black Collection with me last summer and will bring it along again this year (have a look here to see how I wore it on the beach in Amagansett).

 The shirtdress really is a classic and timeless piece. Even as times change, it's good to know that this piece will likely stay in fashion.

***Outfit pictures by Ann


pink vintage heart said...

Love, love this post! The outfit is flawless and the jewelry is amazing!! I'm a vintage lover and have a thing for shirt dresses as well. I just can't get enough of them. This post makes me think of a white over sized vintage shirt dress that sold too quickly on Etsy a few months ago before I could purchase it.


Kremb de la Kremb said...

Norbyah, I really appreciate all the research and analysis that went into this post. It's cool how much you know and shared about the shirtdress. I will think of it differently from here on out. I do love a shirt dress--and luckily it's a good style on multiple figures. If you know what I mean, wink-wink!

Love, Ann

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