There are so many different kinds of dresses that it can be hard to keep them all straight. There’s the empire, the princess, the bell, the bodycon, the… tent

Of course, there are dozens more, but what do they all mean? Simply put, they describe the shape of the dress—they eloquently describe the shape of the dress. (Doesn’t empire waist sound more refined than That Dress That Kind of Starts, Like, Right Under Your Boobs?) That being said, exactly what is an A-line dress?

sleeveless A-line dress by Free People

Why “A-line”?

Basically, an A-line dress is fitted until the waist, then it gradually becomes wider and wider, resembling a capital A. That’s the short answer; if you want more details, (How long has this been going on? Who is behind this? What other things does it look like?) read on.

 

pleated A-line dress, Forever21 Icebergs A-line dress by Ellery collared A-line dress by Lush

 

So, what is an A-line dress really?

Although today a dress is considered to have an A-line silhouette if the hem flares out to a wider point than the waist, there is a little more to a true A-line dress. First of all, it was none other than Christian Dior who coined the term for his 1955 spring collection. His A-line dress featured a silhouette that began narrow at the shoulders and, in a very clean line, became fuller toward the hem.  The dropped waistline, which was not quite as defined as it usually is today, created the crossbar of the A. In this way, the entire look of the dress was reminiscent of the letter, not just the skirted portion. 

Original A-line dress by Dior

The undefined waist may have gone by the wayside as far as most A-lines we see today, but it’s still typical that an A-line dress will have narrow shoulders in order to balance the wide hem. Incidentally, this is seriously why the silhouette wasn’t as popular in the 1980s. Shoulder pads were a way of life for ten years.

1980s Ladies Wearing Shoulderpads

Why wear an A-line when you can look like a linebacker?

 

Why does it seem so familiar?

Dior’s A-line silhouette is now classic, and it actually inspired the trapeze silhouette by Yves Saint-Laurent. The trapeze silhouette is like a radicalized A-line and is most likely what the ubiquitous triangle-woman on women’s bathroom doors everywhere is wearing. But that’s another story.

The sigil of every ladies' restroom

           The sigil of every ladies’ restroom