• The Shift Dress as Cultural Meaning

      Kealy-Morris, Elizabeth; University of Chester (Gold Word Publishing, 2018-02-08)
      This paper will offer a historic and semiotic analysis of the shift dress as essential to the middle and upper-middle class American woman’s wardrobe and its lasting influence on American sportswear and the collections of luxury brand collections as a signifier of understated feminine youthful health through movement. The shift dress can be traced back to the 1920s chemise. Dresses of that era, particularly those of Coco Chanel, featured exposed legs and arms, simple cuts, loose shapes and little waist definition. This was a move away from corsets and offered women both style and ease of movement. The shift dress became a staple of the American woman’s wardrobe in the 1960s and signified a new trend in women’s clothing as the garment promoted independence, modernity and a redefinition of the female shape. This paper argues that the shift dress’s key place in the American woman’s wardrobe reflects the unique historical and cultural influences on American dress from the birth of the new democratic nation in the Eighteenth century to the rise of the dominance of New York City’s ready-to-wear industry in the mid-Twentieth century and concurrent ideological expectations of the female form.