If you are anything like us here at Vestiaire Collective, you’re all about ‘90s fashion. And just about nothing captures the glamour of the ‘90s more than the slip dress. The world’s most stylish women have been championing this look for decades thanks to its ease of wear and seductiveness, and it’s become a true fashion classic. In this guide we’ll take a little trip down fashion memory lane, and discover how this seemingly simple dress became the dress to wear for every woman. While the ‘90s might be history, the fashions of the era are alive and well and we’ll show you exactly how to get this look.
You’ve seen it worn in photos of the ‘90s by the likes of the famous and beautiful, such as Kate Moss and Princess Diana. And you may even have wondered: is that underwear or clothing? But the truth is, the slip dress is a bona fide garment that has a lofty place in fashion history, as well as its future.
The slip has been around for literally centuries. In prior forms, it was once a requirement for women, in order to support the outer garments and protect one’s modesty. And yet there was always a mystique about the undergarment. For example, the presence of bombshell Elizabeth Taylor in a slip in the 1958 film Cat on a Hot Tin Roof caused a sensation. But it wasn’t until the end of the 20th century that the slip dress became mainstream in its own right. Characterised by barely there materials like silk and lace, held up by thin spaghetti straps, and cut on a bias, this is a minimalistic dress for those who want to make a big impact. While the ‘90s favoured midi length slip dresses, the 21st century is playing with the hem line in all lengths. As with most dresses, the slip dress emphasises ease of wear as a single-piece outfit that is super comfortable.
With the recent wave of nostalgia for ‘90s inspired style, the slip dress is enjoying a revival. While the slip makes a great vintage dress for women, modern day designers are still producing new versions of this oldie but goodie. In spring of 2021, Versace included a beach-themed slip dress in its ready-to-wear collection, proving that this look is just as relevant today as it was three decades ago.
The turning point of the slip from underwear to outerwear came during the final decade of the 20th century, when peace and prosperity reigned. And the then-queen of pop, Madonna, ushered in an era when corsets were no longer hidden under clothes but were the main event. This started the movement where undergarments became simply garments and led to the fashionable slip dress that we still love to this day.
The zeitgeist of the ‘90s was exemplified by the rise of the supermodel. No longer simply models but celebrities in their own right, supers like Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Kate Moss were as big as stars could be. And Kate Moss could almost single-handedly be held responsible for the popularity of the slip dress after she, albeit mistakenly, wore a sheer maxi slip dress to a party in 1993 as a teenager. The slip dress became Moss’s iconic look. She wore them to red carpet events and in daily life for the rest of the decade and beyond.
It wasn’t just celebrities who started wearing slips in the light of day in the ‘90s. Carolyn Bessette Kennedy wore a slip dress to her wedding, Princess Diana wore a Dior slip dress to a reception in the designer’s honour and who can forget Cher from Clueless in her bright red date night look? The slip dress has a way of becoming whatever the wearer needs it to be — glamorous, diplomatic, sexy or even grungy (think: Courtney Love).
The Museum of Modern Art in New York City even included two ‘90s era Calvin Klein slip dresses in its 2018 exhibit celebrating the fashions that had a strong impact on the 20th and 21st centuries. If that doesn’t highlight the credibility of this style, we don’t know what does.
The slip dress is a minimalist’s dream. It’s one of the best summer dresses since it is so lightweight and breezy. It’s also a perfect date dress since it is imbued with sensuality. Having a super touchable fabric like silk or velvet doesn’t hurt the night out appeal either.
The slip dress can be as provocative or as innocent as the wearer. Punk-princess Courtney Love had her own way of styling the slip. Then, there’s Drew Barrymore who was the image of innocence in her babydoll cut slip dress at the premiere of Batman Forever. Fun fact: Barrymore’s dress for the event was purchased second-hand from a thrift store. If you want to source pre-loved vintage slips just like she did, head to Vestiaire Collective for a sustainable way to shop for amazing clothing.
Even though the slip is in itself simple, it’s also easy to style and fun to pair with other articles of clothing like a great pre-loved denim jacket or a chunky scarf to add more personality. A versatile item, the slip dress can be worn day or night.
The slip dress was born amidst the cheeky styles of the 1990s, but it has grown-up in the present era. For anyone who wants their wardrobe to have a bit of luxury, you’re in luck. Designers as lauded as Valentino and Saint Laurent, and as contemporary as Reformation offer modern day slip designs.
The slip dress is a staple piece for all seasons. It’s really all about how you layer it. The summertime is when the simplicity of the design can really shine, unencumbered by anything else. The sleek minimalism of the piece gives the wearer an air of nonchalance and a carefree spirit. Because it’s so lightweight, it is super comfortable to wear even in the hottest weather. Don’t be afraid to add a t-shirt underneath this dress if you want some sun protection. This dress was made to be layered and it works well paired with other pieces.
Because of its ability to layer, you can wear the silk dress in any season. It’s easy to pair with a turtleneck or a jacket for cooler weather. For fall and even winter wear, look for a maxi cut in a thicker fabric like velvet to keep you warm. Having one dress that you can use year-round makes the slip dress an environmentally friendly pick.
Whether you want to wear it for daytime or evening wear, the slip is an ultra versatile style. It’s even perfect for just lounging around the house in style since it is, after all, a descendant of the nightgown. For casual events and outings with friends, you can choose a slip dress in any colour, fabric or length you please. But if you want to wear it to a special event like a wedding, perhaps opt for a more formal option, like a silk black dress.
If you love the slinky feel of a satin dress, the slip dress can be one of the easiest pieces to wear. It’s so versatile all you have to do is style it in line with your personality and you’ll have a chic, ‘90s inspired ensemble.
This dress is glamorous all on its own, so it is an obvious pick for a night out. With a pair of heels and your favourite jewellery, you’re sure to turn heads. If you prefer a look with a bit more edge, this dress pairs beautifully with combat boots or trainers. A leather jacket complements this style splendidly. In colder weather, wearing a sweater on top of the dress can give it the appearance of a skirt. No one has ever complained about having two outfits in one.
The dress can be seen as casual so care must be taken when wearing it into professional settings. But with the proper layering, it can be done. Think professional blazer over top, a great pair of pumps and maybe a long sleeve shirt underneath.
The slip dress is usually in a single colour but don’t feel you need to stick to neutrals. A slip dress in a pearly white or black is classic, but a monochromatic ensemble in any colour you desire will work as long as you feel confident in it. By buying a dress you love and will wear often, you can reduce the impact the piece has on the environment. Rather than participating in fast fashion, you can experience the joy of rewearing clothing by layering creatively and accessorising in novel ways.
Though it will always be the defining piece of the ‘90s, the slip dress has proven its timelessness since then. While fashion trends come and go, the simplicity of the slip dress ensures that it will have a lasting place in the fashion closet. There are few pieces as effortless to wear, as versatile in any season, and that can adapt as well to the unique style of each wearer.
When shopping for a slip dress, you have a choice between vintage pieces from the ‘90s or modern day interpretations. Whether you want to go with an OG look or check out what the top brands are doing with the dress in the 21st century, you can shop consciously by buying your slip dress pre-loved on Vestiaire Collective. We help our global community of Fashion Activists give a second life to great pieces of clothing, and as a reward you get an awesome addition to your closet at a cost that is kind to your wallet and to the planet. Extending clothing’s lifespan is one of the best ways to participate in circular fashion. With 140,000 new items listed every day, there’s no need to shop for fast fashion. Vestiaire Collective offers an alternative so fashion lovers can halt fashion overproduction, and still walk away with amazing pre-loved pieces that you’ll adore for years.
So if you haven’t already,, be sure to download the Vestiaire app so you don’t miss out on buying your ideal ‘90s inspired slip dress. Your closet and the Earth will thank you.