The shift dress is one of fashion’s most iconic and enduring silhouettes. The distinct shape has a long, storied history—starting from the drop-waist flapper frocks of the ‘20s to the shapeless sack dresses that took off in the ‘50s. In the ‘60s, the style evolved into the short, straight-cut shift dress that we’re so familiar with today. Considering how this versatile silhouette is easy to throw on and allows plenty of room for movement, we’re all for it. Read on for how to identify a shift versus sheath dress and the keys to pulling off this timeless look.

What Is a Shift Dress?

Typically, a shift dress is simple, short (above the knee), and hangs straight from the shoulders, though many modern interpretations have sleeves or subtle embellishments. The shift’s hallmarks are its roomy, boxy fit (no shaping or tailoring at the waist) and simple lines. It’s designed to shift, or move, with you—meaning it’s easy, comfy to wear and looks great on everyone. No wonder the shift has maintained its popularity for decades!

Shift Dress vs. Sheath Dress

It’s easy to confuse the shift and sheath dress because of some shared similarities: Both are streamlined with short to mid-length hems. But while the former is known for its loose fit—which skims across the bust, waist, and hips—the latter boasts a form-fitting silhouette designed to closely hug your curves.

How to Find a Shift Dress that Fits Flawlessly

With RTR, it’s easy! While this style can seem pretty straightforward, nothing is one-size-fits-all — and the endless closet has plenty of tools for finding your perfect fit. Member reviews are a great place to start since it’s easy to browse feedback and photos from fellow renters with similar size profiles. Super tall with legs for days? Find out whether that thigh-skimming style you’ve been eyeing is really tall-girl friendly before you rent. Plus, our personalized fit tools use member feedback and machine learning technology to gather insights on what runs small, what runs large and what will fit just right. The more you rent, the more we’re able to show you custom picks that are most likely to fit like a glove. And if you’re reserving a one-time rental for a big event? All one-time rentals include a free backup size to ensure you have options.