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What to Wear With a Simple Shift

by Jennifer Blair

A simple, body-skimming shift dress is such a versatile wardrobe item that it might quickly become an essential in your closet. Characterized by a straight cut lacking in waist definition, a shift dress can be found in a variety of colors, patterns and fabrics. Not only is this style almost universally flattering, but it's also extremely easy to dress up or down depending on the occasion. Whether you're looking for an easy, stylish piece to wear to the office or a fashion-forward outfit to wear to dinner, your shift dress can be your look's centerpiece when paired with the right accessories.

Belt It

A shift dress is high on comfort because it doesn't fit too tightly; at the same time, it does lack a certain definition in the waist. Wearing a belt over your shift dress can give it shape and add a pop of color or pattern to your outfit. Choose a thin or medium-width belt to create the most balanced appearance. If your shift is a neutral color, opt for a belt in a bright shade like red, purple or cobalt. A striking animal print or metallic belt is another ideal option. For a shift in a bold color like lemon or tangerine, choose a belt in a shade from the same color family with a patent leather finish -- you’ll have a sleek monochromatic look, but the belt’s shiny texture will help it stand out.

Layer It

A simple shift dress makes an ideal layering piece, and you can easily dress it up or down for any occasion. For the office, wear a fitted blazer over a jersey shift dress to help define your waist. Pair the combination with pumps for a polished, professional look. You can also wear a belted, slim-fit cardigan over a tweed dress when you’re headed to work. If you want to wear your dress more casually, layer a denim jacket over a cotton shift and add ballet flats or flat boots for a relaxed weekend outfit. You can also give a simple satin shift dress an edgy vibe by layering it with a leather jacket and adding moto-style boots.

Make a Statement

Statement jewelry can help give a simple shift dress a little more personality. A dramatic bib necklace with brightly colored enamel pieces or stones is an ideal option over a cotton or jersey shift with a high neckline. If you’re wearing a satin shift to a formal occasion or cocktail party, try a rhinestone choker. Bold earrings like beaded hoops or a chandelier style in colorful crystals can also work well. If your dress is sleeveless or short-sleeved, try an armful of bangles or a single cuff bracelet to help spice up its look.

Get Covered

If your shift dress is on the shorter side, try wearing it over a pair of leggings to give it a tunic-like look. Black leggings are a classic option, but if your dress is a solid neutral color, try floral or animal prints for a little flair. For a casual outfit, wear ballet flats, gladiator sandals or moccasins with a cotton shift and leggings. If you prefer a more polished look, slip into knee-high boots instead.

About the Author

Based in New York City, Jennifer Blair has been covering all things home and garden since 2001. Her writing has appeared on BobVila.com, World Lifestyle, and House Logic. Blair holds a Bachelor of Arts in Writing Seminars from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

Photo Credits

  • Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images