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Last Updated on May 19, 2021
Are you itching to style a slip dress that will suit any occasion but unsure of how to make it work with your wardrobe? Do you think that slip dresses can only be worn alone and during the summer?
Girl you are in for a treat!
Discover all of this and more on this ultimate slip dress guide. We cover how slip dresses came to be, what their original use was, and of course how to style it to perfection so you can literally live in a slip dress if you so desire!
A little history
Slips originated in the late 19th century, as an evolution from petticoats and underskirts that were used during the seventeenth century to add warmth, shape skirts, and most importantly protect outer garments from the dirt of the body.
Originally, the slip provided a middle layer between the underwear and the outerwear. Its function was to make transparent undergarments more modest and to help the fitting so that there was no clinging to the skin. They also were made of trimmed cotton or silk. By 1920 rayon was also widely used.
Later on, during the mid-twentieth century, nylon was preferred since it was washable, could be hung to dry without posterior ironing, and was inexpensive in comparison. To top it off, it held its color, unlike the other fabrics.
During the 1950s, modesty was of the essence. It was considered that a good slip should be durable, shadow-proof, and cut in such a way that it would never ride up. Also, they should be long enough to never show at the hem (ideally one inch shorter than the outer garment).
That said, due to its very nature (being hidden from view and daintily ornamented with lace and trims), this garment became utterly alluring and was highly eroticized in varied media of the times.
Films like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes featured actresses like Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe wearing slips as the ultimate seduction garment.
During the 90s, the “underwear as outwear” phenomenon revolutionized the streets, making the slip dress a daring favorite. It came in a myriad of materials: satin, lace, silk, leather, velvet, lurex, and more.
It also eliminated all the shoulder padding and pretence from the previous decade and it bared it all, quite literally. But above all, it was sexy, it was edgy and it showcased the body as no other garment did.
Due to its revealing cut, lightweight fabric and thin spaghetti straps, it required a lot of confidence and quite a toned body. This made it the perfect dress for rebels like Courtney Love, who appeared at the Vanity Fair Oscar’s party in 1995 wearing the satin dress to end all satin dresses.
It also included top models like Kate Moss, who would make wearing a slip dress an art and would also make famous the sheer design above, worn on the Elite’s Look of the Year party in 1993. It was more than a dress, it was a lifestyle.
Red Carpet Style
Soon enough slip dresses were on every red carpet and evolving to match the style of each actress. Angelina Jolie, during her slightly gothic phase, paired her pearlescent grey slip dress with a velvet cape and in 1993 Winona Ryder went straight for a deep burgundy velvet slip design with a small choker.
In 1996 Gwyneth Paltrow opted for a maxi length in satin powder rose tones at the Oscars and Sarah Jessica Parker took on a more sexy approach and went for a shorter length and even thinner straps.
Slip dresses took the runways by storm in every possible shade and material hand in hand with the decade’s best top models (Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, and Cindy Crawford). They were slinky, glittering, and sheer, filled with sequins and translucent details that turned them into the ultimate sexy garment.
Prime Time Material
As slip dresses became more and more popular, they were adapted to streetwear by adding white t-shirts and pants underneath. They were featured in TV series like Friends and everyone wanted to wear them. Mark my words: if you lived through the 90s you had a couple of slip dresses in your wardrobe and, more than likely, you still love them to pieces!
They had their low moments too, like when Rose McGowan went too far on how much sheer still qualified as wearing something and not being nakey, but overall, they retained their mystique and allure so that 30 years later they would still be rocking hard both on and off the runway.
Slip Dresses in the Modern Day
Nowadays, they are still favored by top models like Gigi Hadid, but they have transcended into a piece that can be worn by anyone, anywhere, casually, formally, and on every season. I would say that of all the latest 90s trends pieces being revived, this is my absolute favorite.
How to Style your Favorite Slip Dress
Types of Fabrics
When it comes to slip dresses, the first thing that we notice is the material.
Silk and satin are the most classic choices for warmer weather since they are both light and airy. The main difference between them is their texture: silk has a smooth surface that is not slippery, unlike satin. Some great color choices for spring and summer are dusty pink, mint, sky-blue, teal, red and cerulean.
Silk and satin slip dresses can also accommodate transitional seasons very well with a little styling. You can either add a t-shirt or a turtleneck and together with a pair of warm boots, you will be fall-ready in no time. Plus, they look amazing in shades of mustard and copper hues!
Velvet slip dresses, on the other hand, are ideal for winter and they instantly give a warmer look. Although in my personal experience this does not translate to real warmness, so beware!
I would go for high-density tights and a warm turtleneck bodysuit, paired with cozy boots (maybe even a pair of shearling-cuffed Timberland boots). Midi lengths look great in this style, so if you are not worried about the cold, definitely go for it!
Slip dresses are the ultimate chameleon. They are so versatile that they can be properly styled for any type of event you might need to attend, and they will always look amazing.
For casual wear, they are an outstanding staple that doesn’t require much.
Go for a pair of white Vans sneakers and a white t-shirt underneath for a layback vibe and play around with flowery or animal prints to make it your own.
When it comes to street style, there are no rules. Feel free to layer things up and pair things in a spontaneous way.
Some combos that work amazing are:
- Ankle straight indigo jeans with blocky high-heeled sandals and a contrasting t-shirt underneath a dusty pink slip dress. Ideal for transitional seasons like spring and fall.
- Extra lengthy cardigan in golden lamé with a little slip dress, with a side-slit Angie style and stiletto heels.
- Champagne color slip dress, knitted turtleneck, and pointed heels. A camel handbag (or any other contrasting but accompanying color). Ultimate sophistication.
- A leopard print with a striking green turtleneck and matching beret cap, plus dark Doc Martens to properly strut your stuff.
Once upon a time, we had work wear…Worry not, it will come again!
So get ready with these office-worthy outfits that are oh so fashionable. Depending on how the general atmosphere is, you can opt for a laid back ensemble or up your game a bit with these choices:
- A light blue (or any other soft-hued color) slip dress, a long classic blazer that keeps things modest, and white sneakers.
- Black turtleneck and matching ankle suede boots, with a contrasting mustard slip dress with a draped neckline.
- The always and forever-worthy white shirt with straight light denim jeans, and black open-back loafers matching your black slip dress.
- The ultimate cozy combo of a beige sweater, mustard slip dress, and beige snake boots.
Slip dresses are a great choice for weddings! Both as the bride and for bridesmaids. In fact, I am pretty sure your bridesmaids will thank you if you go with one of these. After all, it is a dress that you can use again and again for many different events so if they have to buy it they won’t mind the expense.
For a bunch of bridesmaids, you can either opt for the same color or let them choose their favorite amongst similar hues. You cannot go wrong, however, my personal favorite colors are the ones that are on a softer palette, like dusky rose, pearly grey, sky-blue, mint, and cream.
Of course, avoid cream if you are not the bride! It is just too close to white, you may ruffle some feathers unnecessarily.
Styling with different clothing
When it comes to slip dresses, what you style them with is key. Your look can either be a statement or a laid-back combo of things you threw together.
When deciding on a jacket you have to keep in mind that it will be the most prominent element of the outfit. It will partly cover your slip dress and determine the style of the look, plus provide a little warmth (great choice for a fall look!).
A long oversized cardigan in a beige tartan design screams office time and looks superbly elegant paired with an all-black dress, boots, and bag. It is a demure but stylish choice.
On the other hand, going for a black leather jacket, loose-fitting slip dress, and black sneakers is the ultimate “I threw this on before leaving the house” look.
We could argue that the look in between those two is somewhat of a middle ground.
The feminine sandals and delicate cream slip dress contrast with the oversized and masculine cut of the chic leather jacket.
Belt and Boots
Boots have that same effect, so pairing both together is a great choice if you want to create a more seasoned outfit.
Thin belts look great, but so do obis and thick cowboy belts. And regarding the boots, truthfully I have yet to see a style that doesn’t fit.
Think Doc Martens, riding boots, tied up lumberjack boots…The sky is the limit!
- Cunnington, C. Willett, and Phillis Cunnington. The History of Underclothes. London: Michael Joseph Ltd., 1951. Reprint, London: Faber and Faber, 1981.
- Hill, Coleen. Exposed: A History of Lingerie. Yale University Press, 2014.
- Stelle, Valerie. The Corset: A Cultural History. Yale University Press, 2003.
- Steele, Valerie. Fetish – Fashion, Sex & Power. Oxford University Press, USA, 1996