The Shirt Dress - Feminine Utility by Leanne Cloudsdale

The shirt dress first appeared in the late 1930s, but started to gain serious momentum with the emergence of Ration Fashion during World War II – a true utilitarian garment, they were sold to the female populations of the UK and USA in a range of government approved fabrics. When Christian Dior introduced his own version as part of the trailblazing New Look collection of the 1950s, the humble shirt dress became part of the sartorial elite.

Designed to skim rather than cling, it encapsulates the styling details normally reserved for menswear, with the best examples incorporating functioning gauntlets, buttoning plackets and cuffs – everything you’d expect from a man’s traditional tailored shirt. It’s the perfect go-to garment to fulfil those wardrobe quandaries as the seasons shift, but as ever, fabrication and cut are key factors in making sure the silhouette steers towards structured, fresh and functional. A blank canvas, the shirt dress is always open to interpretation – the wearer always retaining full artistic licence, with a look that can be as casual or considered as you wish. Think of Jane Birkin, bra-less in hers with honey tanned pins and a straw tote, or the cinched-in waist of Wenda Parkinson (wife of photographer Norman) photographed wearing a more formal version on a glistening Nairobi airstrip in 1951 – both retaining a look that feels seemingly timeless. Crisp, clean and modern, it’s the ultimate hardworking investment piece.

The SU16 Tito shirt dress has been designed for supreme versatility, ideal for layering over trousers for added volume, or worn on its own when the weather permits. Constructed for lightweight durability in the palest powder blue 64% linen, 36% cotton mix, it’s the perfect crossover between modernity and nostalgia.

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Leanne Cloudsdale is a writer, lecturer and creative consultant.