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Silky, sensual, luxurious, rebellious, grunge, glamorous… there seem to be no boundaries on the kind of vibe you can pull off when you pull on a slip dress. Minimalistic and effortlessly chic, a slip dress’s versatility can flatter all shapes, sizes, and styles, all while helping you rock your loudest pair of hoop earrings or your slickest clean ponytail.

Let’s look deeper into the question, what is a slip dress? as we explore its evolution as a fashion essential and some of the ways you can make it a staple in your own wardrobe.

Slip Dresses, Defined

While it’s pretty common to see slip dresses making a fashion statement of their own these days, they weren’t always meant to be seen. Slip dresses, silky, thin-strapped undergarments, were originally made to prevent static cling when wearing dresses and skirts—helping to keep your clothes from sticking to your body in potentially unflattering ways.1

Slips also doubled as an aid in maintaining smooth lines all the way down your skirt or dress, and they could help keep skirts from bunching up at the hem.1 As a bonus, they could provide a little extra coverage when worn under dresses that are a little more transparent than you prefer.

Both now and in the past, slip dresses come in many shapes and sizes—but they tend to have these features in common:

  • They’re typically made from smooth, gliding fabrics like silk, satin, and other shiny, opaque, or sheer materials.
  • They often feature thin spaghetti straps and may come with padded bra cups.
  • Their hemline can stop anywhere from the tops of your thighs to your ankles.1
  • They may be embellished with beads and other embroideries, with lace lining making a frequent appearance.

Nowadays, slip dresses are commonly worn as standalone pieces, a glamorous addition to a casual day outfit, or a new favorite cocktail dress.1 But slip dresses didn’t start out with such versatility.

 

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From Undergarment to Fashion Statement

From Marie Antoinette to Elizabeth Taylor, those at the forefront of fashion have been sporting slip dresses as more than just underclothes for centuries—a choice of clothing that came with varying amounts of scandal.1

But the slip finally peaked in the 1990s, when famous celebrities like Madonna and Courtney Love began wearing slip dresses in public.1 They toed the line between undergarments and overgarments, grunge and classic Hollywood, minimalism, and luxury.2 Courtney Love, in the ultimate punk rock move, took this typically conservative piece of clothing and turned it on its head—claiming it onstage as a sexy, sensual statement piece.

Today, with 90s fashion trends coming back around, you can see slip dresses all over—from the red carpet to your TikTok For You Page. Slips, without a doubt, are clothing items meant to cause a stir. Let’s discuss the myriad of ways you can employ one in your wardrobe and carry on the tradition of this silky rebellion.

How to Wear a Slip Dress

So you may be wondering how to style slip dress? The beauty of the slip dress lies in its versatility. It can make a statement or blend seamlessly. You can make it your classic Monday look, your stunning first date outfit, or even your wedding dress. Slip dresses can also be worn in nearly every season: their breathability makes for a cooling garment in hotter climates, and they fit well into a many-layered outfit for wintery weather.

Here are some of our favorite ways to style this minimalist wardrobe staple.

Dress Up for a Night Out

If you ever find yourself staring hopelessly at your closet before a night out and wondering how you’ll choose, a slip dress is here to solve all your wardrobe problems. A cute slip dress in neutral color pairs perfectly with any accessories—meaning you can mix and match every weekend and still look plenty fresh.

If you’re going out for a night of dancing or drinks with friends, opt for a mini slip dress that’s a little shorter—with a hem somewhere around mid-thigh—and that comes with lined cups to define and support your curves. Then, dress it up with accessories such as:

  • An oversized blazer
  • Platform heels
  • Nude, barely-there makeup
  • A statement clutch, or handbag

The best part of wearing a mini slip dress is that, even when the night is through, you’ll feel so luxuriously comfy you won’t want to take it off. It’s a replacement for your little black dress and your nightgown, all in one.

Take the Spotlight In Just a Slip

Ah, the solo slip. Truly, the gliding silky veneer of a slip dress speaks for itself. If you’re a ride-or-die minimalist, the best way to wear a slip dress is by itself. You can pair it with simple black sandals, a low bun, and easy gold hoops for a look that’s sure to make you stand out in the classiest way possible.

If you’re going to go with just a simple slip dress, it’s best to choose one that’s tailored to your shape. Tailored slips will have some curves built in to help highlight and flatter your body. If you select one that simply drops down with straight lines, you risk looking like you’re wearing something that’s a little ill-fitting.

Length-wise, a dress that hits mid-calf is suitable for nearly all heights and shapes, and you can select from a variety of necklines. However, if you need more support than a slip can provide, try going for a v-neck option, which will allow room for a triangle bra or bralette underneath the slip. And remember, slips can come in all colors and patterns—even if you’re a minimalist, don’t be afraid to try a slip dress style that’s outside of the box.

Pair with a White T-Shirt

It's time to face it: the styles of the 1990s aren’t going away anytime soon. Grunge, rebellion, shock, drama, beauty… all of it can be packed into a 90s-inspired slip-dress outfit.

While a simple slip dress worn à la the 1990s can include anything from clunky Doc Martens to bright red lipstick to strings of pearls, the classic ’90s slip dress look is easy to achieve and casual enough to wear to your 8 AM class:

  • The standout trend (big thanks to Clueless’s Cher Horowitz) features a spaghetti strap slip dress with a baby doll white crew neck tee worn underneath it. A white crew neck goes with nearly anything, and adding it under a sleek slip creates a beautiful contrast of textures, not to mention extending your dress's versatility for your wardrobe.
  • Accessory-wise, this outfit can only get better with your favorite chunky sneakers, converse, or flats, your hair worn down, and a hint of blush on your cheeks.

Add a Layer… or Two or Three

In a lateral move, take that white crew neck and pop it on over that slip dress. This will transform the look into something even more unique, triggering intrigue and more than a little admiration.

If you’re in the winter months, but you still want to make use of that slip dress you bought in the summer, tug on a crew neck sweater over your slip, and any other cold weather accessories you think you need. The rumor on the street is that slip lingerie dresses look even more divine underneath your staple trench coat.

Pair your layered look with a slicked-back ponytail and chunky mary-janes for a true throwback look, and maybe even add in a choker to really make yourself feel like you’re still in the 90s. But don’t be afraid to let a boldly patterned slip dress speak for itself. Try on layers of contrasting patterns and colors, and don’t let the opportunity for a rebellious slip statement pass you by.

Don’t Be Afraid to Dress it Down

When we said this dress was versatile, we weren’t kidding. If fancy isn’t your vibe, you can still step into a slip dress for a casual style.

When styling a slip dress for a casual look, you’ll want to tone down its silkiness with slightly rougher fabrics and laidback fits. Consider pairing it with:

  • A button-up shirt, sleeves rolled up
  • A denim jacket
  • White sneakers
  • A canvas tote or woven handbag

And if you change your mind midday and decide you do want to go out that night? A quick change of accessories, and you’re in.

Slip Into a Slip Dress from Gooseberry

And there you have it: the evolution of the slip dress. From Marie Antoinette to Courtney Love, from Elizabeth Taylor to Rihanna, the slip dress packs a fashion punch like no other type of dress.

With so many options for how you can wear it, you'll be able to find a slip dress outfit that fits your style in no time. Whether you want something to make your classically elegant look shine or you’re looking to add a new edge to your already sharp sense of style, a slip dress can do for you what it’s done for generations of people before you.

No matter how you choose to wear it, we know you love comfort, sensuality, and feeling your sexiest—and that’s what makes Gooseberry’s collection of intimates perfect for your next fashion splurge. Explore Gooseberry's Manhattan slip dress, which you can find in both white and black options.

 

Sources:

  1. Ssense. Hide and Seek: Everything You Could Possibly Ever Want to Know About the Slip Dress. https://www.ssense.com/en-us/editorial/fashion/hide-and-seek-everything-you-could-possibly-ever-want-to-know-about-the-slip-dress
  2. Vogue. Slip Dressing From the 1930s, 1990s, and Today. https://www.vogue.com/article/slip-dressing-from-the-1930s-1990s-and-2020
  3. The Guardian. The big reveal: deconstructing the slip dress. https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2016/mar/07/the-big-reveal-deconstructing-the-slip-dress

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