What makes a dress short? If you ask three different people, you’re likely to get three different answers. Is a midi dress a short dress? How about other in-between lengths, like tea-length dresses? To make it easy, in fashion terms, a short dress is at or above the knee. Inside that definition, there are lots of different short dress styles to play around with.
Types of Short Dresses
Many different types of dresses can be short dresses if the hem is taken up. But some dress styles are always short or usually styled to be short. Which short dresses have you worn and which ones will you try after you learn more about the different styles that are out there?
1. Baby doll dress
Baby doll or babydoll dresses fall above the knee in classic short dress style. This dress fits somewhat loosely and the waist is not highly defined. Baby doll dresses usually have long sleeves and high necklines because this dress style is all about the legs. Baby doll dresses have a more A line dress silhouette.
2. Bandage dress
Though you can find long bandage dress styles, typically the bandage dress is a knee length dress or shorter. This style was created in the 1990s as a figure-hugging, form-flattering design that looks like thick tape wrapped around the body. This is why the dress is called a bandage dress.
3. Blazer dress
The blazer dress looks like a long blazer, which makes it a cute short dress. Blazer dress styles are often mini dresses, which makes them very short indeed. This is a super cute casual look. Wear it with sneakers during the day or slip into heels for a great evening look.
4. Body con
The body con dress, or bodycon dress, is form-fitting all over. It hugs the body everywhere and ends right at or just above the knee in most designs. Body con dresses can be made in any fabric and they’re made with a variety of different neckline and sleeve types.
Many different types of dresses can be considered cocktail dresses. The classic little black dress is often styled to be a cocktail dress. A cocktail dress is any short dress that is appropriate as a semi-formal dress, which makes it perfect for many different occasions. The short skirt creates a bit of a sexy look, which makes this a perfect dress for date night.
A mini dress isn’t just a short dress. It’s a very short dress. Minidresses end several inches above the knee to reveal lots of leg. However, this is not the shortest option you can choose. Micro mini dresses are even shorter, ending pretty much just past the rear end. Learn all about the different types of minidresses here.
The sheath dress is a style classic that many consider to be a wardrobe staple. Sheath dresses are tight-fitting all over and typically end right around the knee. A sheath dress can be made with any neckline or sleeve length, but strapless, strap and cap sleeve styles are the most common. Boat neck and sweetheart neckline styles are often seen in sheath dress styles.
Shift dresses are very simple and elegant. This is a dress style that can be casual, semi-formal, formal dress or even professional. In other words, it’s highly versatile. Shift dresses end above the knee and fit in a straight design down the body, not too loose but not too tight. This dress does not have a defined waist and it is sleeveless.
The skater dress is inspired by the traditional short, flared dresses worn by ice skaters. Though it started as sporting wear, this has become a popular staple in ladies fashion. In this style, the bodice of the dress is fitted and may have short sleeves, long sleeve style or no sleeves. The skirt is short, usually mini-length and a few inches above the knee, and very flared with a circular skirt design. Often, this dress is made with lightweight, airy fabric.
Slip dress styles actually do look like slips, the lightweight garment you wear under a dress. Slip dresses are often made in satin, silk or a similar lightweight material. Slip dresses usually have spaghetti strap bodices instead of sleeves and end somewhere above the knee. They are often embellished with lace trim and typically fit somewhat loosely but still sit close to the body.
11. Sweater dress
Sweater dress styles are made in knit designs and hug all the curves of the body. Sweater dresses are made to look like long sweaters so they typically end above the knee and have long sleeves and high necklines. Because of the knit material and the way the sweater dress is styled, it will fit closely everywhere.
12. Swing dress
The swing dress is one of the most recognizable short dress styles, though many people don’t know what it’s called. This style of dress is made with a fitted bodice and usually has short sleeves or a sleeveless design. The waist is well-defined and the circular skirt flares out from the hips. The hem ends at or just above the knee. The swing dress is a longer version of the skater dress, which is more of a mini dress or micro-mini dress style.
13. T-shirt dress
The T-shirt dress is made to look like a large, long T-shirt, which makes it a casual and cute mini dress style. You can actually wear any regular long T-shirt as a T-shirt dress but many fashion designers have taken advantage of the trend to charge quite a lot of money for something that looks exactly the same. Isn’t high fashion fun?
14. Tent dress
Tent dresses are loose, full dresses that are very large around the body. These dresses are usually worn as short, summer dresses. They’re typically made in lightweight fabric to create an airy, billowy style. Tent dresses are often sleeveless or made with short sleeves.
15. Tunic dress
Tunic dresses are made to look like long tunics. This means they have long sleeves, high necks and a short length that ends above the knee. Tunic dresses fit close around the body but not tight and often have side slits to reveal even more leg and create a looser fit below the waist. This style creates the illusion of longer legs because of the way it’s designed.
There are lots of different short dress styles out there and plenty of long dresses that can become short with some fairly quick alterations. The sheer number of different designs, necklines and sleeves available can be overwhelming. You may not know how to choose a short dress or know when you can get away with wearing one. Maybe you’ve got questions about styling them. No problem! We’ve got all the answers to the most frequently asked questions about short dresses so instead of feeling overwhelmed, you can start feeling like a style expert instead.
Can short dresses be formal?
Though it is perhaps more common to see long evening gowns and floor-length dresses at formal events and black-tie affairs, you can absolutely wear a short dress to even the fanciest event. It’s all about how fancy the dress looks and how you style it.
Also, short is okay but micro…not so much. You don’t want to get too much shorter than knee-length when you’re trying to create a formal look. Choose a dress that’s very elegant and one that looks expensive, even if it’s not. Wear some nice jewelry and do full makeup and style your hair and just like that, you’ll have a beautiful formal look that you can take anywhere.
How short is too short for a dress?
You can find dresses in literally any length, including those that actually end even before your bottom does. Some dresses are so short, they come with special matching underpants that you definitely need to wear unless you want to end up showing way more than you bargained for.
And in a liberated era where fashion knows no real boundaries, you can wear super short dresses if that’s the style you’re feeling that day. However, it can be pretty uncomfortable and highly impractical to wear a dress that’s so short you can’t sit down in it. A good rule of thumb to follow is that your dress should cover your rear end when you sit down. If it doesn’t, you might want to re-consider your length. Otherwise, you’re going to get into some uncomfortable situations and your dress won’t always look as good as it could.
Are short dresses in style?
Not only are short dresses in style right now, but they are also definitely having a moment. In fact, they’re leading many hot fashion trends. Short dresses are all over the runways, style blogs and Instagram. Ever since the flapper style of the 1920s first became trendy, women have been flirting with looks that expose their legs. This century-old love affair isn’t showing any signs of slowing down right now. Short dresses are totally trendy and now, they’re considered to be a timeless style.
Can you wear a short dress to a wedding?
Have a great-looking short dress but you aren’t sure if you can wear it to a wedding? You can! It’s okay to wear short dresses to even the most formal events…even including royal weddings, which are basically the swankiest of all weddings. Even brides these days are wearing short wedding gowns and some brides change into a short gown after the initial ceremony. If you style it well and you’ve got enough swagger, you can wear a short dress anywhere and look amazing. A short dress can still be an absolutely beautiful dress.
Which types of dresses should short women wear?
Styling looks when you’re at a bit of a height disadvantage isn’t always easy. Even short dresses can swallow up a short body frame. The wrong types of short dresses can actually make you look even shorter, which you probably don’t want. There are some short dress styles that suit a short height better than others. These styles create the illusion of height and work well with a shorter petite frame.
Wrap dress styles look especially good on shorter bodies because they define the waist, creating two distinct sections between the top and the bottom. This has an elongating effect that can make you appear taller. Wrap dresses are universally flattering, which means they look good on all body types. This is always a right dress choice no matter where you’re going or what type of body you have.
Short mini dress styles, such as blazer dresses and skater dresses, also work very well on shorter frames. This is because these mini dress lengths show off a lot of leg, which makes your body look longer overall. A shorter dress is a good choice for a shorter body.
Choose solid-colored dresses, rather than prints. This is a simple but effective way to make your short body look less short. Prints can overwhelm a small frame.
When can you wear a short dress?
If you style it properly, you can pretty much wear a short dress everywhere. You can get away with it at the most solemn events and dignified ceremonies. You can even get away with it at the office.
There are a few tricks to styling a short dress to suit different occasions. Want to wear a short dress to the office? You can make a short dress look more professional by adding a blazer or a structured jacket. This extra top layer will help balance the look. Wear long sleeves to cover your arms. Since you’re already baring your legs, showing your ars as well can give you more of an undressed look than you probably want. Also, stick to neutral and muted colors. Shy away from pastels and bright clothing in office environments.
Add tights to cover your legs when you’re in more conservative environments, such as religious ceremonies or solemn events. Simply covering your legs so that you aren’t showing bare skin makes any sexy short dress look much less sexy…but it still lets you look a little bit sexy and there’s nothing wrong with that.
For evening events, parties, romantic dates and casual gatherings, there’s no limit. Wear your short dress how you want to wear it and have fun playing around with your style.
How can you make your short dress look casual?
If you want to make any outfit look more casual, there’s a simple solution: put on sneakers. A pair of sneakers will instantly make anything you’re wearing look more casual and more all-occasion. In sneakers, you can go on a hike or a picnic, go shopping or step into a restaurant. In fact, a pair of classic sneakers can look simply adorable when paired with a short dress. It’s a good party dress look if you’re going to a casual backyard gathering. The shoe always matters no matter what kind of style you want to have.
Add a layer to make any short dress more casual. A denim jacket instantly creates casual appeal with whatever you’re wearing. You can also slip into a button-up sweater, like a cardigan, to show that you’re casual and carefree.
How can you wear a short dress in winter?
Wearing short dresses in winter isn’t easy if you live in an area with a cooler climate. It can look a little off stylistically when everyone else is more covered up and it can be seriously uncomfortable because of the temperature. There are ways to style a short dress in winter that will keep you warm and keep you looking fashionable, too.
First, don’t wear a short dress with bare legs in winter or in any sort of lower temperatures. Wear tights instead. In particularly cold weather, choose a pair of thick, woolen tights. Wear them in a shade that matches the dress precisely, choose a completely contrasting color to add a pop and draw attention to your legs, choose a neutral color to take the emphasis off the tights or pick a shade that complements the dress you’re wearing.
Match the tights with a pair of tall boots to give your legs more coverage and provide extra warmth. Ankle boots are too short. Opt for at least calf-high. You should top all this off with a long coat that will cover your legs.
How old is too old to wear a short dress?
Short dresses are often associated with youth. Young girls and young women wear short dresses to show off their legs. But older women have legs, too, and they may also want to show off theirs. Fashion has no true rules or limits. In fact, all the most fashion-forward people believe that the style rules are all meant to be broken.
In other words, wear what you like and what you think looks good. There is absolutely no age limit on short dresses. And if you’ve got the legs to pull off the look and make it work, there’s no reason at all not to strut your stuff in a short hemline. After all, it’s easy for the young to have great legs. When you’ve got great legs as an older person, you’ve done a whole lot of things right. Why not show that to the world?
- Glamour Magazine – What actually is a babydoll dress?
- Sew Guide – 50+ different types of dresses for women
- The Trend Spotter – 40 Types of Dresses for Every Women Should Know
- Who What Wear – 12 Things Short Girls Look Amazing in Every Time
- Who What Wear – Decoded: The Dos and Don’ts of Every Dress Code
- WikiHow – How to Style a Short Dress