Trumpet Dress

AKA: mermaid dress, fit-and-flare dress

How to say it:  truhm-pit drew

Traditional Features: Trumpet Dress

  • fitted bodice
  • skirt flares from the mid-thigh
  • can be long or short
  • can have varying amounts of flare in the skirt

21st Century Trumpet Dresses

The modern trumpet dress comes in many shapes and sizes, from short and flirty, to long and formal. It is a classic style of dress that looks as perfect on the red carpet or walking down the aisle as it does at Sunday brunch or cocktail hour.

Anthropologie ML Monique Lhuiller

Anthropologie, ML Monique Lhuillier

Roksanda Ilincic Zac Posen

Roksanda Ilincic, Zac Posen


…of the style: The trumpet dress has a shape that fits the body from the bodice to the hips and flares out at the mid-thigh (although this can vary) and is a silhouette that has existed in women’s fashion since at least the late 1870s. These first fit-and-flare styles we known as ‘fishtail skirts‘ as they fitted over the wearers hips and thighs, flaring out at the knee and finishing in a small train at the back, creating a shape similar to that of a fish or mermaid tail.

Towards the end of the century fashion favoured the ‘bell skirt’ which fitted over the hips, but then flared drastically, creating a bell shape that was emphasised by corsets and padding; this style was followed by the ‘trumpet skirt‘ of the early 1900s, which was similar to the fishtail, flaring at the knee in a funnel-like shape that made the silhouette resemble a trumpet.

By 1910 the fashionable silhouette had returned to a slim-line look and the introduction of Poiret’s hobble skirt marked the end of the fit-and-flare styles until the 1930s, when the trumpet silhouette was particularly suited to the new bias-cut construction and became popular in evening wear of the decade.

Flare all but disappeared in women’s clothing during the fabric rationing of WWII and when it came back in the late 40s, it came back with a vengeance; women opted for full skirts that flared from the waist and let the ‘fit’ part of the silhouette fall to the wayside. In 1950 a Jacques Fath trumpet dress appeared on the cover of Le Corset de France and this heralded a new era for the style as Hollywood starlets, like Jayne Mansfield, embraced the flattering silhouette.

By the end of the decade the trumpet silhouette was passed aside in favour of the smoother, more modern flared styles of the 60s. In the 1980s the fitted and flared silhouettes combined once more and the trumpet dress became particularly popular in evening wear again. This popularity did not wane (although the amount of ruffles did, thankfully, reduce) and in the 21st century the trumpet dress appears regularly on the red carpet and wedding aisles all over the world. The shorter version of the trumpet dress has also remained popular and various interpretations of the silhouette are consistently available on the fashion marketplace. The trumpet dress has a silhouette that is all its own and despite its exaggerated shape, it has become a classic style that is not likely to disappear any time soon.

…of the name: when the skirt of the dress begins to flare, the overall silhouette is similar to the shape of a trumpet, hence the name.

Random Facts

  • while the terms trumpet, mermaid and fit-and-flare are often interchanged, they are actually subtly different styles – technically, a fit-and-flare shaped skirt flares from below the hip, a trumpet flares from the mid-thigh and a mermaid shape flares from the knee, however designers do not always follow these rules and tend to use the three terms willy-nilly.

For more info on Trumpet Dresses try Petticoat Pond, Wikipedia, The Bridal Gift or check out the Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion

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