Members of the public sent us digital images of themselves in their favourite shift dress. Displayed here and at the exhibitions, the images show how the shift dress has progressed from a revolutionary garment in 1965, to a mainstay of fashionable dress over 50 years.
Sue Marshall, Bath, Uk, 2015 – I love it because it is vibrant, energetic, colourful, and I went shopping with my nieces, who are in their twenties, and they told me that I could buy it , whereas I thought I was too old to wear it.
Heledd, UK, unknown – My 40th birthday shift dress, from French Connection, complete with birthday shoes by Jimmy Choo.
Submitted by The Museum at FIT, photo taken 2010, USA – A favourite from the collection as it’s a luxury version of the shift, by Valentino – silver mesh, white lace, rhinestones, and wood – c.1965 – Italy – Gift of Harriet Weiner
1965 Dress of the Year, a shift dress with a mesh midriff designed by John Bates at Jean Varon, worn here by model Jean Shrimpton in an image by Duffy. Credit: Fashion Museum, Bath and North East Somerset Council
Maudie Smith, 2002, UK – This is me just after getting married in 2002. The dress wasn’t new but it is my favourite colour and was so easy for a busy mum to fling on before the Registry Office – you can’t see the baby and the toddler in the other side of the limo!
Laura, 1965, UK – my Nan, Mum and Aunty all in tiny shift dresses from around 1965! It was taken in my Great Grandmas back garden (UK) against the hedge the blackberries used to grow in. I love the image because I spent many childhood days here myself and I am almost certain Nan made these matching children’s shift dresses herself. She’s the one who inspires me to sew today.
Jeana David, Portsmouth, UK, 1966 – Shift dress made and possibly designed by me, it was a favourite because of the cut-away style of the shoulders and the nice fabric that I used.
Fi, Southern Rhodesia, 1966. A friend wove the fabric and this was the only dress I could make as it was not wide enough for any darts apart from the horizontal, decorative pleats across the bust. Made in Southern Rhodesia probably about 1968 the dress now lives in Bath but I am too large to wear it
Helen Parker, Stratford-Upon-Avon, UK, 1965. School friends. ‘We were in Stratford to watch Shakespeare. No idea what we saw, but a good opportunity for us to strut our stuff!’
My mother (in white! Why would she?) at my aunt’s wedding in London 1969 holding me (wearing a spiffing pair of red shoes). Despite the absolute no-no of wearing white to someone else’s wedding she does look very elegant and typically 60’s.
Brigid Keenan, Vietnam, 1967 – I think this is 1967 my sister Tessa and I on our way back from trying to be war correspondents in Vietnam. We were not fat (then) but neither of us ever had waists so shifts were the perfect garment.
Helen Rayner, USA, 1963 – My mother moved with me (the toddler in the photo) from the UK to California in 1963. She can’t remember the dress, but I feel I know it – just from seeing it in this photograph over the years. She has her hair back-combed and swept up into a bun here, but soon after this photograph was taken, she started to wear her hair long and straight – often with a flower in it. One day in San Francisco a visitor to the city called out on seeing her, “Look, they DO wear flowers in their hair!”
Hannah, Bristol, 2015. A favourite because she bought it on holiday in France this summer and it reminds her of the trip.
Submitted by Joy Merron, UK – All dressed up and ready to go to a 60s revisited fancy dress party in vintage 60s gear!
Submitted by Angie Parker, Co. Cavan, Ireland, 1968 – The shy foxy lady is my Mum aged 22, with her cousin (holding my sister) and her twin brother. I love seeing my Mum looking so cute, and hearing the crazy stories from this campa-van holiday to her birth home with her first baby. She made that dress and quite likely would have made my sisters with the leftover fabric!
Debra Counsell, Bath, UK, 2015 – I love this dress as it can be styled up or down. It always fits. It looks great with a denim jacket and converse or with a jacket and heeled sandals.
Judith Perry, 1966, England – it was my favourite shift dress because I made it myself – just launching into making clothes for myself aged 18 – and it seemed the height of fashion at the time.
Linda Row – Bristol, UK – 2007, Boutique Ethique, ‘Anyone for tennis?’ It is one of my designs made from organic linen and organza, for my 2007 collection. The model I don’t have her name but image taken by Amanda Thomas – Photographer based in Bristol.
John Walker, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2011 – I met Margaret Clark at art school in Newcastle upon Tyne in the late 1950s where she was studying fine art and printed textiles. She lived with her sister Patsy and parents in the poor, working class, West End district of Elswick (178 Stone St) not far from Newcastle’s football ground – St Jame’s Park – and the Scotswood Rd. The houses consisted of two flats and she lived in an upper one. To reach an outside toilet and coal bunker one had to descend a flight of steps into a small back yard. (There were no gardens front or back.) This was a cold and hazardous journey during snowy winters. Her father worked in a shipyard and his Geordie accent was so strong I could hardly understand him. Her mother was of Irish origin and a staunch Catholic. Despite her lowly origins, Margaret earned a place at university and she was design and fashion conscious. She often made her own clothes by imitating images in fashion magazines. She wore such a red dress – a common fashion icon – made from a soft, body-hugging material when we were courting and naturally it prompted a highly erotic episode. American academics have even conducted psychological research into the erotic power of red dresses. What appealed to me about this combination of portrait and townscape was the contrast between the youthful beauty of the female and the drab environment in which she had grown up.
David, Bath, 2015 – I bought this dress for Penny in Covent Garden in 1995 when we first started dating and she still looks great in it 20 years later.
Submitted by Joy Merron (photo of her sister), 1974, Seychelles – This was the best uniform I had in my time with B.M.A. as it was very comfortable and practical to wear. This was our tropical uniform.
Carys, UK, 2014 – bought in 2014 and is her favourite because it has pockets and is comfortable.
Lisa Gravelle – Brittany, France – Year unknown. Here we are in Brittany on holiday having found a village named after us! Thus proving to Mum that our pedigree is French/sophisticated etc… Lisa Gravelle is on the right, the one wearing the shift dress. Lisa’s sister, Anna Gravelle, is the cheeky monkey pulling a face. Love the long white socks!
Anna Glasbrook, 1970, UK – With my brother, David. The dress is an original Clothkits that my Mum made for me and all my cousins in Denmark went on to wear after me.
Submitted by Desiree Goodall, 1965, New Zealand – My mum (on the left), about 9 years old, on holiday with her cousin in Auckland. The dress was made by my nana, from a pale blue and purple paisley fabric.
Julie Heaton, 2015, Bristol – This dress is my favourite shift because it makes me feel really happy when I wear it.
Jemima – UK – year unknown. Jemima’s makeshift shift! Made by Jemima from the scraps box when she was six. It used to be pair of trousers that her Mum, Fiona, made for herself in the late ’80s.
Penny Wheeler, 1981, USA – Shift dress with a frill and metal rings punched into the neckline, I loved it because I bought it in Top Shop at Oxford Circus (height of sophistication for teenager from a small town in Dorset) and it had a brilliant texture like cracked/ reptile skin. I took it with me on a school camping trip to the NE corner of USA, it got horribly creased but I still wore it. When it was no longer trendy I used the fabric to make a top.