Shape shift: A shift to suit any shape

By far and large the most popular style of dress for any occasion is the shift.  Deemed a timeless, elegant classic, made famous by the eternally sophisticated Audrey Hepburn.  A shift is elegance at its finest.

The origins of the shift are pretty much vested in the 1960s straight line dress that shifts over the body – if we look at Audrey Hepburn in any of the many Givenchy numbers she wore, we will see loose fitting dresses elegantly skimming her, albeit slender, figure. Whilst very few of us mere mortals can boast Audrey-esq slenderness (she was the typical ruler” figure which is pretty much a clothes horse) , the shift dress can and does hide a multitude of body issues.

The shift is by far my favourite design and I delight in each and every shift commission which pops into the studio.  Below is my guide to making it unique but relevant:

A style to suit all figures:

The one piece shift – with darts perfect for all figure types, especially hour or pear which will highlight the tiny waist.

The waist-ed shift – with a  seam around the middle this type generally does suit all figures, obviously highlighting the tiny waist for the ladies who want to show it off, but giving the effect of the a waist for the figure where it’s not so prominent. It is perfect for the figure with a bigger bust as it allows a good fit across the bust without too much bagginess elsewhere.

High neck dress with a defined waist; perfect for the hour-glass or pear shape figure
High neck dress with a defined waist; perfect for the hour-glass or pear shape figure

The a’line shift or floaty shift – definitely one for the ladies with more of an apple figure as it hides a multitude of sins

The Aline shift (this one in silk) fits across the shoulders and bust and then hangs to cover a multitude of sin
The Aline shift (this one in silk) fits across the shoulders and bust and then hangs to cover a multitude of sin

Of course, once you’ve identified a shape of your shift, it’s all about the details:

The neckline:

High / boat shape neckline suits the smaller bust ladies

Scoop, sweetheart or v shape is definitely one for the fuller bust

Square, round or v neckline is very flattering for a fuller bust
Square, round or v neckline is very flattering for a fuller bust

Sleeves

If I had a £1 for every woman who said she hated her arms, I wouldn’t be writing this!  Seriously though, it’s a common cause of concern and not defined by age (I’ve had the youngest slip of a bride bemoaning her unhappiness at bare arms).  So to sleeves: how low do you want to go?  By rule of thumb the eye will be drawn to the end of a sleeve – so think about which bit of your body you’re trying to hide.  Sleeves need not be boring or conservative; there’s loads of design and tailoring techniques to make your sleeves elegant.

Bias or straight-cut a bespoke sleeve is cut to suit your shape.
Bias or straight-cut a bespoke sleeve is cut to suit your shape.

Cap sleeve works well on all figure shapes and sizes

Elegant three quarter sleeve draws the eye to the waist so excellent for the hour or pear shape lady

Three-quarter sleeves ending at the waist - avoid if you don't want to draw attention to the waist!
Three-quarter sleeves ending at the waist – avoid if you don’t want to draw attention to the waist!

Elbow length sleeves (as adopted by Her Majesty) should be avoided for the fuller bust (see above on where the eye lands).

The sheer sleeve is very popular at the moment with the fashion for lace – an elegant way of showing a bit of flesh, without showing too much.

Not only is there a shift to suit any body shape, there’s one to suit any occasion too.

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