The evolution of the day dress

The day dress is a staple piece in many women’s wardrobes. Often coming out over spring and summer, a light dress can brighten our mood and our outfits – it’s perfect for drinks at the pub, barbeques and the occasional cocktail party. But where did the day dress that we know and love begin? And how have celebrities rocked the garment over the years? Trilogy stores, retailers of womenswear from designers such as Rails Clothing, tell us more…

The rising hemline

The hemline of skirts and dresses has fluctuated over time, but overall shorter garments are now more accepted.
Women used to only wear dresses that covered their ankles and went down to the floor. But, after the First World War, women began to gain more independence and in turn their hemlines began to rise. They dropped back down following the disastrous Wall Street Crash of 1929 as moods were low. After the liberation of the Second World War women felt confident enough to wear shorter garments again.

Thanks to British fashion icon, Mary Quant, the mini skirt was introduced in the 1960s and women went crazy for them! During the 90s, the hemline was all over the place —it was all about wearing what you wanted and expressing your individuality. This same idea has continued into the 2000s, with long dresses coming in and out of fashion and minis being the preference of others.

Changing trends

Not only has the hemline changed which has influenced our day dresses of today, but the popular prints and textiles have varied over time too.

In the 1960s, it was all about psychedelic patterns, neon colours and baby doll dresses. With the introduction of the short hemline, dresses sat comfortable above the knee for most women (teamed with square heels most likely).
The 1970s were heavily influenced by the hippie culture from the previous decade and the disco trend that was about to emerge. Floral patterns dominated wardrobes in the early 70s, by the middle of the decade this had changed to pastel colours and by the 1980s women were enjoying earthy tones.

Polka dots were a popular pattern on dresses during the 1980s. Accompanied by huge earrings, pearl necklaces and high-volume hair, tight spandex skirts were worn by many women across the era. Madonna had a great influence too — making skirts over leggings popular and lace gloves a sought-after accessory.
In the 1990s, denim made its way onto the fashion scene – and women loved a denim sleeveless number. This trend clearly carried over into the 2000s, hence Britney and Justin’s memorable double-denim picture. Slip dresses were very in too as the ‘underwear-as-outerwear’ trend prevailed. Animal prints were very popular too (think Spice Girls).

In the early 2000s, day dresses were all to do with the boho trend. This involved floaty skirts, mandalas, headbands and a lot of paisley. Many celebrities endorsed the trend, most notably Sienna Miller and the Olsen twins. The dress-over-pants look was big in the 2000s, made up of a loose-fitted dress, jeans and mid-calf boots. Fringe dresses, tiered mini dresses and off-the-shoulder straps were also very ‘in’.


We’ve looked back at the past, but what’s to come in the world of day dresses? On the SS18 catwalk we saw varied textiles and a range of patterns. Ruffle sleeves are making their way into spring wardrobes and for dressing up, sequins and glitter are predicted to be popular (despite that they’re usually hidden away until Christmas).

Other predictions include long skirts, sheer materials and multi-layers. As always though, wear what you feel comfortable and confident in and you’ll rock it!

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