Sheath

I couldn’t find a dress that starts with ‘Y’, so here is a classic style instead…

AKA: 

How to say it: sheeth

Traditional Features: Sheath

  • straight, narrow style
  • fitted through the body
  • shaped at the waist with darts or a set-in waistline
  • slash or inverted pleat in skirt to allow for walking

21st Century Sheaths

The classic sheath is the perfect go-to style for any 21st woman. Flattering, simple and timeless, the modern sheath is available in a plethora of fabrics and colours, and can be dressed up or dressed down. It is the ultimate in easy dressing for the modern woman.

French Connection Kay Unger New York

French Connection, Kay Unger New York

Michael Kors Milly

Michael Kors, Milly

Origins…

…of the style: The sheath dress is a straight, classic style that hugs the body by way of darts (or sometimes a set in waist) and usually finishes demurely around the knee. Beloved of First Ladies and movie stars alike, the first sheath dress was apparently created by Coco Chanel in 1926 and coincided with the creation of another fashion icon – the first LBD was apparently a sheath.

However, it was the 1950s that really brought the sheath dress into the forefront of fashion.  After WWII there were two main silhouettes in womenwear – the New Look and the sheath. Both styles featured a closely fitting bodice (often aided by a corset or other form of shape wear) and tiny wasp waist, but where the New Look featured a full, flaring skirt, the sheath hugged the hips and stayed close to the figure, often restricting the movement of the legs and earning the nickname ‘the wiggle dress’.

Some fashion historians see the sheath of the 50s as an oppressive relic, due to its restrictive shape and the need to wear uncomfortable girdles under them. But despite this reputation, the sheath remained extremely popular throughout the 50s and 60s, with the dress being worn by some of the most iconic women of the decade – Audrey Hepburn in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s‘ and Jackie Kennedy to name a few.

The Hippie Culture of the 70s marked the end of the sheath’s popularity, but the style came back into fashion towards the end of the 1980s and has remained popular ever since. In the 21st century the sheath is considered a classic style and is as equally suited to the boardroom as it is to cocktail hour – the ultimate in desk-to-dinner dressing. The modern sheath is pretty much the same design as the 1926 original and, thanks to its versatility, simplicity and flattering lines, it is unlikely to ever change.

…of the name: Apparently the term ‘sheath’ is used as the dress hugs the body much like a sheath of a knife hugs the blade.

For more info on Sheaths try eHow, Squidoo, The Lost Art of Dress or the Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion

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