“Come on, let’s twist again,
Like we did last summer,
Yeah, let's twist again,
Like we did last year…”
When the novelty dance craze of the 60’s hit the floor, and Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” rocketed to the #1 on the singles charts, ladies needed the freedom to swivel their hips like they never had before. Big, fluffy crinolines and poodle skirts were great for jitterbugging, but the new dances needed to reveal the body, and fashions needed to be streamlined.
The shift dress was becoming popular as a slimmer version of the sack dress of the late 50’s. Young girls scavenged the simple 20’s shift of yesteryear that had fueled their grandmothers in their Charleston heyday, and they found the straight lines of the shift was the perfect shape for athletic acrobatics performed on the dance floor.
A shift dress was a simple design, with very little fitting. It skimmed the body instead of hugging it, and offered a freedom that women hadn’t seen since the 20’s. The shift was dropped straight from the shoulders, receiving its fitting in bust darts and little else. The traditional shift had parallel side seams, but most girls preferred the slightly feminine shaping of the A-line.
The shift dress is responsible for the shift away from the tight, hourglass figure, towards one of more willowy freedom. The shift, in its many different variations (A-line, H-line, empire waist) remained one of the simplest and most flattering styles throughout the ensuing decades.