The pinafore dress is never worn alone. What you wear under the dress is just as important as the dress itself. The pinafore has a long history in fashion but this dress took a different route to become a wardrobe staple. How did this child’s dress become a super chic fashion garment…and how many different pinafore dress styles are there for you to try? If you’ve been ignoring this fun, classic dress style, it’s time to start paying a lot more attention to the pinafore and all the ways you can use it to express your fashion sense.
History of the Pinafore Dress
The pinafore first appeared in Britain and it was initially worn as a school uniform for young girls. The word itself means “apron” because the pinafore is also known as the apron dress. In Canada, this is called a jumper or a jumper dress. Across the pond in the UK, however, a jumper is a sweater. Make sure you know which clothing term to use based on where you are n the world! If you’re in the UK looking for a dress and ask to see a jumper, you will not find what you want.
What’s in a Name?
The pinafore dress is still sometimes called a “jumper” in the U.S., particularly near the Canadian border. An old-fashioned word for it that still appears is “pinny.” Whatever you call it, you’re going to call it a favored garment. The pinafore dress is great because there are countless ways you can style it and tons of different types of looks you can pull off by mixing and matching various pieces to wear with it.
Origin of the Pinafore
The beginnings of this dress style go way, way back in history. The modern pinafore dress is really just the grandchild of an older dress style, the surcote. This was a type of overdress that was commonly worn in the 1300s. It was a long outer gown that was open at the sides. Once slipped over the head, the dress would hang down the front and back of the woman’s body. From here, it was cinched at the waist. The surcote was worn with a long, stylized tunic that could be seen under the surcote. This style fell out of fashion as other dress styles became popular. But centuries later, a more modern version of the surcote appeared in England.
Modern pinafore dress styles did not appear until the 1900s, when they first started to be used in school uniforms. The style made its way into athletic wear from here, becoming popular in women’s fashion as a dress to wear while golfing, playing tennis and engaging in other sporting activities. By the 1960s, the pinafore dress had found its way into popular style and it was worn for all sorts of casual occasions.
Types of Pinafore Dress
The pinafore is a sleeveless dress that can be made from any material, though sturdy fabrics like denim and cotton are more common. The dress is open at the sides and generally made in a straight design, though sometimes it has a fitted waist. Typically, the bodice is a rectangle of fabric that is attached to the straps that go over the shoulders to connect with the rectangular back piece, a mirror of the front of the gown. The skirt can be straight or flared from here and can be any length. Within these basic style parameters, many different pinafore dress styles are possible.
In the classic pinafore style, the dress is about knee-length and has a straight fit, skimming the curves but not adding definition around the waist. The skirt is not flared and the bodice is straight and mid-high, sitting an inch or two under the collar bone. Straps that are a couple of inches wide hold the dress in place at the shoulders. The back and the front of the dress look nearly identical in classic pinafore dress designs.
2. Box pleated
If you have a less curvy shape, the box pleated pinafore may be the perfect option for you. The pleated skirt flares out and adds a little volume around the hips, rear end and thighs. This can help make petite women look like they have more curves. Meanwhile, the bodice of the pinafore is loose and as apron-like as any other pinafore style, while the waist is clearly defined.
3. Empire waist
Women who prefer a little definition but who don’t want to show off their waist or stomach may like the empire waist pinafore dress. This is the perfect option for maternity wear, as the high empire waist gives the belly plenty of room. The straight cut of the pinafore and the layering effect helps to hide the belly. This design is very forgiving to women who want to hide their belly for other reasons, too! Meanwhile, the bustline is clearly defined. This is a great style for curvy women who don’t want to wear something tight-fitting or provocative.
A pinafore dress with a flared skirt has its own distinct look that’s a somewhat different style from the classic pinafore. In flared design, the waist of the dress must be cinched. This is a good silhouette for women with curvier body types, such as hourglass shapes, apple shapes and pear shapes. Flared pinafore styles can be any length and may have a V-neck or a classic neckline.
The classic pinafore is about knee-length but this style can be made in much longer designs, too, including midi dress length and maxi dress length. Often, longer pinafore dress styles are cinched or belted at the waist.
A pinafore dress that’s a few inches shorter than the knee is a mini dress. Mini dress pinafores are typically made in straight styles without defined waist, but some styles are made with cinched waists and flared skirts.
7. V neck
In traditional designs, the pinafore dress looks like an apron. This is why it’s also commonly called an apron dress. That means the bodice is rectangular in shape and cut straight across the chest. But in some designs, the pinafore can have a V neck design. Usually, this is achieved with two wide strips that are split to the waist and come up over the chest to cover the shoulders. Since the pinafore dress is always worn on top of some type of blouse or top, it’s okay that the V neck design doesn’t provide a lot of coverage.
The pinafore is different from other dresses because you should never be wearing this dress alone. It’s always meant to be worn with some type of blouse or top, unlike other types of dresses. Otherwise, you’ll be exposing a whole lot of skin and some other stuff you might not want to show. So if you have styling questions about this dress, you aren’t alone. Get all the answers to all the most common questions about pinafore dresses and you’ll get all the looks you want.
What is the ideal length for a pinafore dress?
In classic styling, the pinafore dress is about two to three inches above the knees, though there’s no hard and fast rule about that. Pinafore dresses can be made in literally any length, though at or around knee-length is considered to be the traditional look.
The ideal length for the pinafore is the length you want and the one that makes you comfortable. You can even go up to a mini style if you like. As a general rule, however, you want your dress to be long enough to completely cover your rear end, no matter what style of dress you’re wearing. It’s a good idea to get the length long enough to cover your rear end at least to the very tops of your thighs when you’re sitting down in a chair.
How to wear a pinafore dress in winter?
The pinafore dress is one of the few dress styles that is actually a good fall or winter fashion choice. You can always wear a nice thick sweater under the pinafore, which gives you some great upper body warmth. Keep the lower body warm with knit stockings and tall boots, which provide protection from the cold. Top it off with an insulating overcoat to keep your body warm and hold in heat around yourself. You can also wear a dress that has lining in it, which adds another layer of insulation.
What to wear under a pinafore dress?
What’s great about the pinafore is that you can wear any type of top or blouse underneath it and completely change up your style. Have fun mixing and matching your pinafore dresses with different blouses to create all sorts of looks. A turtleneck with long sleeves, a deep V-neck blouse, a tank top, a T-shirt, a high-necked satin blouse. Get creative and play with different textures, colors and designs. Pair a white shirt with a pinafore in black to create a layered little black dress look that will be timeless, youthful and charming.
Whatever you choose, you can create a distinct look and style that works for just about any setting and any activity. Pair a pinafore with all your favorite tops to see which combinations you like best.
Is a pinafore dress a formal dress? Could it be?
The pinafore dress has its roots in school uniforms and athletic wear, casual dresses made for getting things done and working hard. And while the dress has become a fashion staple in its own right and many designers have put their own spin on this traditional design, it’s pretty hard to make a pinafore dress look formal. Because it’s always worn with an extra layer, the pinafore looks more casual than anything. It’s probably not going to become your go-to cocktail dress…but anything is possible.
It is possible to style it for professional wear and possibly even semi-formal wear but it’s hard to wear a pinafore as anything but a chic, casual look. Formal pinafore styles aren’t really seen on the red carpet but since fashion is all about breaking the rules, who knows? You may find a way to style a pinafore dress to make it look highly formal and elegant.
Shoes and accessories are the key to defining the style of any dress. A pinafore paired with white sneakers, for example, is always going to look more casual. Add stiletto heels, however, and it’s a much more professional or semi-formal look.
Pinafore dress vs jumper?
Is there a difference between the British-born pinafore and the North American jumper? No. Both dress types are interchangeable and exactly the same, with the same style possibilities and the same basic apron dress design. The name for the pinafore depends entirely on where in the world you are while you are wearing it.
How to choose the best pinafore dress for women?
Which pinafore dress style is going to look best on you? Go by your body type and think about the types of dresses you normally like best. Are you more comfortable in cinched waist designs? Do you prefer a more flared skirt with a little volume to it, or a straight style that fits closer to your body? Focus on the waist and the skirt of the dress, because the bodice will be paired with a second layer and can be styled to look lots of different ways. Choose the silhouette that’s going to best suit your shape and you won’t go wrong with any dress you wear. When you go by your body type, you’ll always find a perfect dress for you.
What is the most popular type of dress?
Fashion trends come and go, sometimes quite quickly. The look that everyone has to have today becomes another forgotten fad tomorrow. Remember the skintight bodycon dress styles that everyone had to have in the 2000s? Women today are reaching more for maxi dresses and one of the most popular dresses according to Google search terms is the comfy, loose fitting dress known as the T shirt dress. This is a straight dress style that can be belted and it’s literally styled to look like a big, long T shirt.
What is an apron dress?
The term “apron dress” refers to a pinafore dress. The difference between a classic pinafore and a standard apron that you put on over your clothing is in the back. In other words, the pinafore dress has a back to it. A regular apron does not. It is a simple and open design that slips around the neck and ties around the waist. The apron dress, the pinafore, is an actual dress with a full back that is worn over the head and shoulders.