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Tan France Teaches Style for Everyone

A dress silhouette is the overall shape that a dress creates when it hangs on your body—it’s the outline of the dress rather than all the little details. Different silhouettes aim to emphasize or flatter different body shapes or parts; one silhouette meant to emphasize a small waist, especially popular in everything from wedding dresses to bridesmaid dresses to everyday outfits, is the A-line dress.

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Tan France Teaches Style for EveryoneTan France Teaches Style for Everyone

Queer Eye cohost Tan France breaks down the principles of great style, from building a capsule wardrobe to looking pulled together every day.

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What Is an A-Line Dress?

A-line dresses are one of the most popular dress silhouettes. The most common type of A-line dresses are form-fitted in the bodice and flare out at the waistline (through sewing darts) to form a triangle shape like a capital letter A. A-line silhouettes are designed to emphasize a narrow waist, wider hips, and the bust line. A-line dresses are one of the most popular dress styles because they are flattering on almost any body type.

The term “A-line” can also describe any dress that has a hem much wider than its shoulders, regardless of a cinched waist or corset-style top, or an A-line skirt that sits just above your hips and flares out. Other dress silhouettes include sheath dresses, shift dresses, empire waist dresses, and ball gown dresses.

A Brief History of the A-Line Dress

While fitted tops and flared bottoms have been worn for centuries, the term “A-line” dates back to the spring of 1955, when French fashion designer Christian Dior released what he called “the A-line collection.” While Dior’s previous collections (and the collections of other designers) featured flared skirts, they were often paired with very cinched waists or strong shoulder structuring that created more of an hourglass shape. Dior’s A-line collection featured a wide variety of silhouettes that were fitted up top and flared out with darts in the bottom—one of the most popular looks was a flared jacket worn over a full pleated skirt, creating a look like a capital A.

Dior’s successor, Yves Saint Laurent, continued experimenting with the A-line shape, releasing a line of what he called “trapeze dresses,” which were fitted in the shoulders and flared out into an A shape. A-line dresses enjoyed tremendous popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, and after a brief fall from the public eye, resurged in the late 1990s and early 2000s to become one of the most popular dress silhouettes today.

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3 Characteristics of an A-Line Dress

A-line dresses can feature hemlines ranging in length from full skirts to ending above your knees, and any kind of neckline. The silhouette can be sleeveless, off the shoulder, short sleeve, or long sleeve. Typical A-line dresses:

  1. Fit in the shoulders or waist. A-line dresses need to have a narrow fit near the top of the dress to create the point of the letter “A.” To do this, they need to be fitted up top, either fitted at the shoulders or remaining fitted from the shoulders to the natural waist before flaring (called a “fitted bodice”).
  2. Flare toward the hem. To create the classic triangle shape of an A, A-line dresses need to flare out as they move toward the bottom hem. A-line dresses can flare out from the shoulders or from the waist to create the wide bottom shape.
  3. Few embellishments in the skirt. A-line dresses need to flare out comfortably from the hips, so they usually won’t include details that would affect the drape, like pockets or slits. In addition, they usually rely on simple sewing tricks like darts and seams to get the right shape, rather than pleats, for a simple, streamlined look.

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Want to Learn More About Unleashing Your Inner Fashionista?

Get a MasterClass Annual Membership and let Tan France be your very own style spirit guide. Queer Eye’s fashion guru spills everything he knows about building a capsule collection, finding a signature look, understanding proportions, and more (including why it’s important to wear underwear to bed)—all in a soothing British accent, no less.

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