We found runway inspiration for this trend in Giambattista Valli's energetic, youthful S/S 11 collection, which showcased dozens of short dresses, including the abbreviated Woven Reed, Jacquard, and Lurex Dress ($4498) shown above. His creative take on the shift dress is equal parts uptown (the clean lines and simple shape) and downtown (the leopard print and abbreviated hemline), making it a must-have for anyone! The orange panels on the sides of the dress are particularly captivating; the unexpected touch of color adds just the right amount of intrigue. All in all, Valli's dress is proof that while the shift is simplistic in nature, it doesn't have to be boring.
To see how easily this trend works off the runway, look no further than today's four trendsetters: Alexa Chung, Olivia Palermo, Kate Bosworth, and Elisa Sednaoui. The first two ladies decided to wear their shift dresses in a more youthful, girly way by styling them with a few feminine accessories. For example, at Marc Jacobs' S/S 11 show late last year, Alexa Chung opted to show off her gams with the designer's super-short Buff Wool Crepe Sleeveless Dress with Patch Pockets ($950, 323.653.5100), paired with a black Mini Carnaby Bag ($995, 323.653.5100) and gray heels from the F/W 10 collection. We adore Chung's amazing hair accessory--a navy blue headband--as it finishes off the look perfectly. Olivia Palermo also went for a girly look when she paired a Giambattista Valli dress with candy-colored pink heels and a vintage clutch for ELLE's 25th anniversary celebration in New York late last year. We adore how Olivia modernized the shift via her bold statement shoes, which also add a pop of color to her otherwise neutral ensemble.
Of course, completely feminine accessories aren't required when one wears a shift dress. If you want a slightly edgier look, simply look at the way Kate Bosworth styled this must-buy piece. The actress attended the Calvin Klein Collection F/W 11 show in New York last month in the fashion house's Coral Washed Silk Shift Dress ($2395, 212.292.9000) from the S/S 11 collection paired with patent ankle boots. The of-the-moment color and the tough footwear make the shift look totally modern--in fact, there's nothing retro about it! In addition to Bosworth's styling choices, we also like the minimalist look that model Elisa Sednaoui opted for when she attended a dinner celebrating the Calvin Klein Collection S/S 11 show. For this event, Sednaoui picked a knee-length gray shift dress, which she accessorized with only a pair of black ankle-strap platform heels. The resulting ensemble is entirely office-appropriate, plus it's very practical for everyday occasions.
Convinced that your spring wardrobe would not be complete without a streamlined shift? Then we're confident you'll love all the dresses we've picked out to help you create similarly stylish looks. Just skip the necklaces, nix the belts, and put away the scarves because the dress should take center stage! First, if you love the bold orange hue of Kate Bosworth's shift, J. Crew's Linea Shift Dress ($118) is a great option that's sure to turn heads. In favor of a more neutral color palette, as seen on Olivia Palermo? Look no further than Topshop's Off White Cape Back Shift Dress ($100) or ASOS' Jacquard Shift Dress ($71.72); both are guaranteed to give you a chic look suitable for any occasion. If you're craving a stylish option with pockets like Alexa Chung's frock, then See by Chloe's Patch Lace Shift Dress ($455) is the perfect choice and will surely inject some youthful spirit into your spring wardrobe. Perhaps you're in the market for work-friendly look a la Elisa Sednaoui? In that case, we recommend Topshop's Black Linen Scallop Hem Shift Dress ($80). Finally, if you're dying for a bold, patterned shift like Giambattista Valli's runway look, we suggest picking up Laundry by Shelli Segal's Print Twill Dress ($245). A versatile choice, this frock will easily take you from Sunday brunch to a festive cocktail party. Wherever spring may find you, we promise the shift dress is an easy way to step out in style!--Erin Fitzpatrick
Photo of Olivia Palermo, courtesy of Wire Image; Photo of Elisa Sednaoui, courtesy of Billy Farrell Agency