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8 Different Straight Dress Styles You Need to Know

Woman wearing a straight line dress

Straight dress styles are designed to be flattering and attractive but not necessarily restrictive or revealing. There are many straight dress styles to choose from and some may look just amazing on you. Which types of straight dresses should you be wearing…and which ones are you going to start wearing once you become more familiar with the amazing styles on this list? 

History of Straight Dress Designs

Straight, simple dress designs actually date back to the ancient days of dressing and appear very early in fashion history. One of the earliest ancient dresses was a straight dress style. Togas, worn by both classical Greeks and Romans, were made to fit in a straight fall from the shoulders to the floor. 

Types of Straight Dress Styles

Straight dress designs are truly thousands of years old. Over the centuries, many different styles of dresses have been refined and modernized so that today, there are many different options available and many different types to choose from. 

1. A-line

iconic luxe Women's A-Line Swing Trapeze Midi Dress Large Black

The A line dress silhouette is designed to hang straight down from the body, flaring out only slightly. It can be fitted at the waist but still follows this basic silhouette, which does resemble the capital letter A. This is why the A line is known as the A line. This silhouette is flattering on a variety of body types. It’s a classic look that is seen often in wedding dress styles, prom dresses and ball gowns. A line dresses are also seen in casual wear. This is a very versatile silhouette that continues to remain stylish for good reason. 

2. Column

Adrianna Papell Women's Off Shoulder Stripe Lace Column Gown, Black/Ivory, 2

The column dress is made to hang straight down from the chest, where it fits tightly across the body and then comes straight down. This is a very forgiving silhouette that can hide problem body areas. It is close-fitting but loose, with no definition in the waist or any other area. It simply hangs straight down in a simple, elegant style. The column silhouette is popular in evening gowns and other formal wear.

3. Drop waist

VIJIV Women's Flapper Dresses 1920s Gatsby V Neck Grey Bow Drop Waist Fashion Roaring 20's Dress

Also known as low waist, the drop waist design has a waistline that sits well below the natural waist. This waistline is actually closer to the hips. This allows the dress to hang straight down from the body. Drop waist dresses may be made with many different necklines and sleeve styles. This dress silhouette is closely associated with the flapper look of the 1920s. Drop waist dresses were extremely popular at this time. This dress looks a bit like a skirt and blouse style separate, but it’s actually all connected.

4. Empire

DB MOON Women Casual Long Sleeve Dresses Empire Waist Loose Dress with Pockets (Dark Green, L)

The empire waistline sits high above the natural waist, usually just under the bust line. From here, it falls straight down. There is no definition around the waist because this dress is made to hand straight. The empire waistline is a favorite for pregnant women and women who don’t want to show off their stomachs and waists because this full, loose fit is very forgiving and camouflaging.

Empire waistlines look very flattering. The design creates a full, flowing skirt that helps obscure all the curves of the body below the bustline.

Empire waistlines were first seen in the 1700s, making this one of the oldest dress styles to reman in popular fashion. 

5. Kaftan

Women Long Tunic Dress Kaftan Maxi Dress Batwing 3/4 Sleeve Plus Size Summer Dress

The kaftan is a long, very full dress style. It’s made to be straight and very wide, billowing around the body in a very big, airy design. This is a comfortable dress because it’s so loose-fitting.

The kaftan usually falls all the way to the ankles and may be made in all sorts of colors and patterns. In fact, it is seen often in African print dresses. Ankara style kaftans are especially trendy in current fashion, as are other African dress styles that are similar to the kaftan. All African wear, including kente style and Ankara long gown styles, are particularly on trend right now. African fashion and Ankara styles have gone global.

6. Sheath

Tommy Hilfiger Women's Sheath Dress, high Ivory, 10

The sheath dress fits close all over to really show off the curves, but it is a straight style. The cut of the dress is still straight. It simply bends around your curves when you’re inside of it. When hanging up, however, the sheath is a straight style. This is a short dress that ends above the knee. Sheath dress styles are made with many different necklines and sleeve designs.

The sheath dress is a great all-around option that can be styled to be worn in several different ways. Create a professional look by adding a blazer, get ready for cocktails with a pair of high heels or have fun shopping and running errands with a cropped sweater or jacket and flats. 

7. Shift

SOLERSUN Long Sleeve Shift Dresses for Women, Women's Casual Chiffon Flared Sleeve V Neck Loose Swing Pullover Party Mini Tunic T Shirt Dress Dark Blue L

The shift dress is a simple straight style that hangs straight down from the shoulders. This dress fits close to the body but hangs straight. There is no waist definition. The shift dress only skims the curves, rather than showing them off. Shift dresses are typically short dresses, ending above the knee, and they are sleeveless in design.

This is a classic dress silhouette that was super popular in the 1960s. In fact, this is still a go-to style for anyone who wants to create a fun vintage look that’s a little bit mod and always fashionable. 

8. Qipao Dress

7Fairy Women's Black Backless Long Chinese Prom Dress Dragon Halter Size 6 US

The qipao dress is made with a straight skirt and a high neck. This dress is a traditional Chinese style that dates back to the 1600s. It became popular in the 1920s in Western culture. Once it became fashionable in the Western world, the qipao dress became sleeker and more streamlined, with a wide variety of sleeve types. Often, this dress is made in silk fabric, in keeping with the eastern style.


Still have questions about wearing straight dresses? Where can you wear them? What should you do to style them? How can you get the answers? Just keep reading. We’ve put together all the answers to the most common questions about straight dress styles. Soon, you’ll be wearing and styling these types of dresses just like an expert. 

What is a straight dress?

Straight dress designs are made to hang straight down the body. They are cut and styled in straight lines, rather than being cut to cinch the waist, fit tight around the rear end or provide structure around the bodice. Most of these styles are more loose-fitting, rather than tight, which makes them comfortable to wear. Usually, these dresses do not have a fitted bodice. Unlike the maxi dress or the wrap dress, which fits around the waist, straight dress styles skim right past the waist and usually fit loosely in this area.

These are not form-hugging midi dress styles, clingy slip dress looks or tight-fitting mini dress designs. These dresses hang straight and they are great for women with wider hips and curvier curves that they don’t necessarily want to show off, along with women who have straighter body types. Straight dresses can be anything you want, from casual dress to formal dress, from long sleeve to short sleeve.

How do you style straight dress styles?

There are many different ways to wear straight dress styles. Different dresses can be styled in many different ways. A classic shift, for example, can be worn with strappy heeled shoes, sandals, flats, even sneakers and many other types of shoes. Play around with different shoes, purses and accessories to see what you like best with your favorite straight dress designs. 

What is the difference between a shift dress and a sheath dress?

Because they are both straight dress designs and the names are similar, and because they are both short dress styles, the shift and the sheath styles are often mixed up. However, they are designed very differently and fit very differently on the body despite all these similarities. The shift dress is made to fit loosely around the body in a somewhat boxy design. This is a comofrtable, cute desgn. The sheath is a sexy, close-fitting design that hugs the body all over and fits tightly to show off every line and curve. 

Can a straight dress be business casual? 

Many types of straight dresses work well in a  business casual environment, depending on how they’re styled. Add a blazer or cardigan to immediately give many dresses a more professional look. Shift dresses, sheath dresses and drop waist styles can all look great in an office or business setting of any kind.

How should you style straight dresses with jackets?

Many dresses look good when you add a cropped jacket. To make a dress look more casual or edgy, a denim or leather jacket looks amazing. To make it look dressier, try a pretty shrug. This can elevate a dress and make it look more formal or semi-formal as needed. Top off a dress with a blazer or button-up sweat to make it more professional or casual. Play around with different types of jackets with your straight dresses to see how many different ways you can style your favorite items.

Do straight dresses look good with boots?

Sone straight dress styles are great to pair with boots. A classic shift dress, for example, looks amazing with knee high boots. This is a very vintage look, in fact, and a popular style in the 1960s. Sheath dresses look good with the right kind of boots. Kaftan dresses also look good with boots when styled the right way. Play around with different dress and shoe or boot combinations to see what you like. A pair of boots can make quite a style statement when paired with just the right dress. 

Can you wear a straight dress with a belt?

Some straight dress styles can be worn with a belt, such as the sheath dress. Other styles, like the shift and the drop waist dress, just won’t hang right or look right if you wear them with a belt. 

Which body types can wear straight dress styles?

Do you have a body type that’s better-suited for straight dress styles? If you have a more slender or athletic build, such as a rectangle body shape, straight dress styles will look amazing on you. Some straight dress styles look good on curvier body types, as well. Empire waist dresses work very well on women with curvy hourglass shapes.


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