Chemise dress is a term that refers to a "chemise dress" is usually used to refer to a dress that is cut straight along the sides and not fitted at the waist as in the garment known as the Chemise.
The term "chemise dress" has typically been used to refer to the outerwear worn during periods of transition in fashion (most especially in the 1780s and 1950s) to distinguish the new designs that were not fitted from the traditional cut-off style.
The origins of the Chemise
In the 18th century, the most common female garment of undergarment was the Chemise or shift, an untidy, loose-fitting knee-length dress made of white linen that had the appearance of a triangular or straight form.
The Chemise was the first term used to refer to an outer garment in the 1780s when the Queen Marie Antoinette of France popularized the informal, loose-fitting dress comprised pure white cotton that resembled a chemise in cut and material.
It was later known as the Chemise a la Reine. After blue chemise dresses that were straight cut and then gathered into a waistline with drawstrings or sashes were the fashion of the day at the turn of 1800, it was no necessity to define their shape, and the word "chemise" was reverted to the original meaning.
Chemises Evolve into Dresses
Dresses were next described as chemises around 1910 when loosely belted, columnar dresses recalling early-nineteenth-century styles became popular.
(The Chemise was being worn as lingerie; however, by 1920, it became an asymmetrical, hip-length tubular camisole-like piece with straps narrow.)
Although the straight, unbelted dresses in the 1920s looked much more chemise-like than other dress styles and are now described as chemises by historians, the term was often used in the 1920s.
Following the return of fashion to a more fitting form in the 1930s, the chemise dress was seen again in the 1940s, but with the shape of a dress designed to hang straight from shoulders or tied into a yoke; however, it was always intended to be with a belt around the waist.
Modern Chemise Dresses The Shift, Tunic, and Sheath
However, the most influential decade of the 20th century for the chemise dress was in the 50s.
The decade began in the 1950s, when the Parisian fashion designers Christian Dior and Cristobal Balenciaga, together with other designers from Europe and those from the United States, began experimenting with unfitted tunic and sheath dresses.
Belted chemises remained very popular. However, the most dramatic change was in 1957, when Dior and Balenciaga introduced straight, undulating chemise thatch completely obliterated the waist. They were referred to as sacks or chemises.
They were regarded as radical shifts in fashion and focused on the intense controversy in American media. Many commentators, especially men, thought these styles of figure-concealing were not natural, while those who supported them loved their sleek, clean, modern style.
(The word "sack" could be an ode to the 18th-century sacque or sack-back dress that Balenciaga revived forms of chemises, with fullness in the back and a full back, but it was an appropriate description of the silhouette of a bag-like chemise.)
Straight and waistless styles and straight and A-line continued to be controversial for a few years, but they gradually became part of many wardrobes and soon became a standard of fashion in the 1960s.
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- Rose Satin Chemise Lingerie
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- White Lace Chemise Nightgown
- Pink Cotton Chemise Nightgown
However, the word "chemise" disappeared from the fashion scene in the 1960s, perhaps because the commotion of the years 1957-58 had brought about negative meanings (or since the lingerie chemise was now a memory, having last was worn during the 1920s).
Straight-cut dresses are now referred to as shifts, and the more extravagant versions were the muumuu or tent dresses. Following another time of more fitted clothes in the 1970s, loose-fitting dresses were revived throughout the 1980s.
Since then, women have had the choice of selecting among a myriad of styles, and styles that aren't fitted are described as loose, straight, or straight.