AskDefine | Define dresses

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. Plural of dress


  1. third-person singular of dress



  1. Form of Second-person singular present subjunctive, dresser#French|dresser

Extensive Definition

A dress (also frock, gown) is a garment consisting of a skirt with an attached bodice or with a matching bodice giving the effect of a one-piece garment.
In Western culture, dresses are usually considered women's clothing. The hemline dresses can be as high as the upper thigh or as low as the ground, depending on the whims of fashion and the modesty or personal taste of the wearer.


19th century

Dresses increased dramatically to the hoopskirt and crinoline-supported styles of the 1860s; then fullness was draped and drawn to the back by any dresses had a "day" bodice with a high neckline and long sleeves, and an "evening" bodice with a low neckline (decollete) and very short sleeves.
Throughout this period, the length of fashionable dresses varied only slightly, between ankle-length and floor-sweeping.

Dress types

Depending on design dresses are classified. Different basic dress shapes are:
  • Shirtwaist, a dress with a bodice (waist) like a tailored shirt and an attached straight or full skirt
  • Sheath, a fitted, often sleeveless dress, often without a waistseam (1960s)*Shift, a straight dress with no waist shaping or seam (1960s)
  • Jumper dress (American English) or Pinafore dress (British English) is a sleeveless dress intended to be worn over a layering top or blouse. Jumper dresses exist for both summer and winter wear.
  • Sundress is an informal sleeveless dress of any shape in a lightweight fabric, for summer wear.
  • Tent, a dress flared from above the bust, sometimes with a yoke (1960s, renewed popularity after 2005)

Fads and fashions

  • Chanel's little black dress (1920s and on)
  • Tea gown, a frothy, feminine semiformal dress
  • Dinner dress, a semiformal dress worn when fashionable people "dressed for dinner" (men in tuxedos or dinner jackets, even at home)
  • Coronation gown, formal wear for coronations
  • Evening gown or formal, a long dress for formal occasions
  • Ball gown, a long dress with a full, sweeping, or trained skirt for dancing
  • Kitty Foyle, a dark-colored dress with contrasting (usually white) collar and cuffs (1940s, after a dress worn by Ginger Rogers in the movie of the same name)
  • Cocktail dress, a semiformal party dress of the current street length (1950s and sporadically popular since)
  • Granny gown, an ankle-length, often ruffled, day dress of printed calico, cut like a Victorian nightgown, popularized by designer Laura Ashley (late 1960s-1970s)
  • Tunic


In Europe and America, dresses are worn by females of all ages as an alternative to a separate skirt and blouse or trousers. Dresses are often used by young girls and as more formal attire by adult women. Outside the U.S., higher-status women (judges, cabinet ministers, physicians, corporate executives et al.) generally avoid wearing trousers in public. Conversely, women at the lowest socio-economic levels sometimes do not own dresses.
Potential drawbacks of dresses include being either too long or cumbersome for the performance of some physical activities such as climbing stairs or ladders. Their use can run contrary to the individual or wider public sense of modesty and decency, especially given their potential to intentionally or accidentally expose the wearer's underwear. In addition, some dress styles, particularly those with back closures, can be difficult or even impossible to don or remove without assistance.
Dresses however can be cooler and less confining than many trouser styles, and they are still very popular for special occasions such as proms or weddings.


Dresses are, like other outer clothing, usually worn with underwear. A wearer of a dress is likely to wear a form of panties as innerwear, though depending on the occasion, type of material, and type of skirt for modesty one may wear a slip over the panties.
One may usually wear a bra, but for modesty wearing a camisole / vest or full slip is also an option for the top. Dresses are sometimes worn with tights.


  • Oxford English Dictionary
  • Brockmamn, Helen L.: The Theory of Fashion Design, Wiley, 1965.
  • Picken, Mary Brooks: The Fashion Dictionary, Funk and Wagnalls, 1957. (1973 edition ISBN 0-308-10052-2)
  • Tozer, Jane, and Sarah Levitt: Fabric of Society: A Century of People and Their Clothes 1770-1870, Laura Ashley Ltd., 1983; ISBN 0-9508913-0-4
dresses in German: Kleid
dresses in Esperanto: Robo
dresses in French: Robe (vêtement)
dresses in Lithuanian: Suknelė
dresses in Japanese: ドレス
dresses in Polish: Suknia
dresses in Portuguese: Vestido
dresses in Russian: Платье
dresses in Simple English: Dress
dresses in Finnish: Mekko
dresses in Samogitian: Jupelė
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