The Hunt: Sheath Dresses

The Best Sheath Dresses | Corporette2018 Update: Check out our latest roundup of classic sheath dresses for work!

Sure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

There are a ton of cute sheath dresses out right now, so I thought we’d hunt for a few since we haven’t done a roundup since last year! Readers, what does your perfect sheath dress look like? Sleeves? Neckline? Have you gotten any amazing sheath dresses recently?

Halogen Sheath DressCute! The Halogen line (exclusively at Nordstrom, if I remember correctly) continues to turn out really affordable workwear — and this sheath dress looks great. Love the pleats at the waist, the scoop neck, and the high back. It’s available in regular and petite sizes 0-16 for $69 (was $118). Halogen Sheath Dress
Calvin Klein Cap Sleeve Cutout Neckline SheathI always think there are great basics to be found in Macy’s Everyday Value line, which works with a few exclusive brands like Calvin Klein, AK Anne Klein, and more. I’m loving this cap sleeve cutout neckline sheath, available in 3 colors (including black, pictured at top), with 14 positive reviews — and it’s $89.98. It is fully lined, too. (Another nice piece from the line: this gray/blue/teal/black colorblock sheath dress, also from Calvin Klein, also $89.98. And another great red sheath dress, if that’s a basic for you:  Adrianna Papell, Side Pleat Sheath Dress, $118.) Pictured: Calvin Klein Cap Sleeve Cutout Neckline Sheath
Ann Taylor All-Season Stretch Belted Sheath DressAh, the great sleeves or no-sleeves debate. Personally I prefer sheath dresses without sleeves because they layer better beneath blazers and cardigans (and layer better on top of blouses). But I know there are many women who prefer a sleeved sheath dress, so I thought I’d post this nice navy basic — it’s $129, available in sizes 00-18 in regular and petite, and is available exclusively online. Two other nice pieces from AT’s current roundup: the flounce dress I posted last Thursday (still on sale for $59), and this Tropical Wool Scoop Neck Sheath Dress for $169. Pictured: Ann Taylor All-Season Stretch Belted Sheath Dress
French Connection Lola Stretch DressI’m loving the look of this “Lolo” stretch sheath dress from French Connection — the neckline seems professional and classic but interesting at the same time. At various places around the web the dress is also offered in white/ecru, but Nordstrom just has it in black, sizes 0-12. It’s $188. French Connection Lola Stretch Dress
Classiques Entier Tonal Inset Italian Ponte DressJust for variety (and again, sleeves!) I’ll throw in the red version of this dress instead of the black version — it’s a bit high-necked for my busty self, but that there are worse things by far.  Love the tonal inset (in the black version it’s black on black), the ponte stretch, and the lining.  It’s $228, sizes 0-16. Classiques Entier Tonal Inset Italian Ponte Dress
Brooks Brothers Sleeveless Gathered Shoulder DressBrooks Brothers never fails with sheath dresses — I love this high tucked neckline and the wool/silk/Lycra blend.  (Incidentally, they’re having some killer sales on shoes, bags, and jewelry right now.)  The dress is $398.  (Another good BB option: this textured/dotted shift dress for $298.)  Pictured: Brooks Brothers Sleeveless Gathered Shoulder Dress

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  1. That last Brooks Brothers dress is my dream sheath dress. Perfection.

    • Medic Maggie :

      I definitely like them when they have something “different” going on. The asymmetric ruching, or a drapey top.

      Of course, I love the Lands End one…landsend DOT com/shop/womens-dresses/-/N-fy7

      The sleeveless ponte sheath is beautiful, but I also really like the eyelet sheath too–perfect for spring & summer. I’ve never owned one, but all the other LE stuff I’ve ever had has been great. The thing that bugs me about the ponte sheath, though, is that the geometric patterns don’t match on the vertical seam on the skirt. It’s less noticeable with the floral pattern, but it looks terrible with their geometric patterns.

    • TO Lawyer :

      I love that neckline. I definitely do not need another black sheath dress though – I probably have at least 5.

    • If only it came in something other than black. I really have to quit kidding myself – black near my decidedly warm skin and hair makes me look pale and sickly. It sucks the color right out of me.

  2. This is pretty much what I wear every day if I am not wearing a suit. It’s just so much easier than anything else, and if I am meeting non-lawyer friends after work I can switch out my jacket for a long slouchy cardigan, put on some booties and I feel less overdressed/boring than in my other work attire.

    Speaking of dresses, I’ll throw in another recommendation: I have never tried Kay Unger suits before (or dresses for that matter), but I ordered a black KU suit from L&T last week and am very pleasantly surprised. I normally prefer wool suits in very classic cuts, but I have to say – this is perhaps the most comfortable suit jacket I have ever tried on. The entire thing feels like secret PJs and I kind of really like the retro vibe. I ordered the skirt and jacket, but there is also a sheath dress, which I am now considering also getting. To stay on topic, this is the dress:

    • Off topic, this is the blazer:

      I am often between sizes and went up because the fabric is very stretchy and I didn’t want it to be too vavavoom. For taller ladies, the skirt definitely needs to be shortened on 5’3 me so it may work for you as is.

    • What kind of booties do you wear AIMS? I like that you said you can throw them on to dress down a sheath for after work. I’ve seen some women pull them off and they look great.

      • These are my most recent acquisition.
        I especially like the little red zipper in the back – makes me feel very kicky.

  3. Anyone have suggestions on good sheath dresses for tall or long torso’d women? I love the look of sheath dresses but most of them have the waist and hip darts in totally the wrong place for me so they fit oddly.

    • Diana Barry :

      J Crew sometimes has talls, and so does BR. I find princess seaming and no waistband helpful, also.

    • I’ve found that Banana Republic talls actually cut for longer torsos rather than just tacking on extra length in the skirt. Unfortunately, they don’t make many of their dresses in talls.

    • Hildegarde :

      I’m guessing I have a longer than average torso because the waist on many dresses hits me too high, and I love the J.Crew Emmaleigh in part because the waist is in the perfect place. I’m only 5’4″, however, so if you’re both tall and long-torsoed you might try the Emmaleigh in a tall. Others on this board have commented that the waist is set somewhat low on this dress, too.

    • I’m 5’7″ with a longish torso, and I’ve had good luck with T Tahari and other Tahari brand sheath dresses. I generally struggle with sheath dresses (long torso + hourglass figure), sadly. I love the style but they so rarely work for my body!

  4. Diana Barry :

    I like the BB one but not the belt – in general I am not a fan of belts.

    I just got the Bridget dress from J Crew:

    It says 39″ long but I am skeptical – it hits me about where it hits on the model and I need to take out the hem to make it longer.

  5. Diana Barry :

    In moderation – again without link:

    I like the BB one but not the belt – in general I am not a fan of belts.

    I just got the Bridget dress from J Crew in black. Quite nice. It says 39″ long but I am skeptical – it hits me about where it hits on the model and I need to take out the hem to make it longer.

    • If you’re skeptical, you can measure it. Not trying to be snarky. It might depend where the measurement is taken from: the top of the shoulder vs. the back neckline (and necklines can vary quite a bit in back).

      • Diana Barry :

        Yeah, I haven’t looked at it yet, just noticed when I tried it on quickly that it was too short, but I have that 39″ measurement in my head as a “safe” length for me, so now I’m wondering if it’s shorter than 39″ or if I need to adjust my memory. ;)

  6. Anne Shirley :

    I look for some interest around the neckline, to avoid wallofboob, and for enough shoulder coverage. I don’t mind sleeveless, but straps that risk my bra showing don’t cut it.

    • locomotive :

      many dresses have a tiny little button with a loop of fabric underneath the shoulders to clip around your bra strap and then it never moves! i discovered this on one of my dresses and then flabbergastedly realized they were on several and i had just never noticed.

  7. I love all of these to varying degrees. Sleeved sheaths are my holy grail of awesome work clothes.

  8. Shopping help? :

    In case I have a twin out there who also happens to be a terrific shopper: any sheath dress suggestions for a 5’3″ lady with a 36g chest and proportionate hip size (hourglass?) I usually wear a size 12 petite, but beyond the LE ponte sheath, I have been striking out on the dress front. Many thanks!

    • I’m similarly sized to you, and I’ve had some luck with BCBG – not a brand you’d typically associate with work dresses, but I have a black sheath dress from a few years ago that has a wide (opaque) black leather panel going straight down the middle, which is very slimming but also very subtle. Just be careful with length/style – some of their work dresses are definitely not okay for work!

      • I’ve had great luck with LOFT Factory sheaths, of all things! And yet I don’t like their regular dresses at all. I can sometimes find sheath dresses from a brand called JM Collection at Macys. They are my holy grail-the fit is amazing.

    • Hugo boss. Pricey but lasts forever. And slimming.
      5″4 with 30g chest.

    • Shopping help? :

      Thanks so much for the suggestions, all!

    • I might suggest Brooks Brothers. I’m taller than you, but similarly proportioned up top and they’re one of the few that fit me off the rack, so maybe a petite would fit length-wise. Full price can be a little much for my budget but I get great deals during sales and from the outlet.

  9. Senior Associate :

    Any suggestions for good dresses for plus sizes?

    I love that Brooks Brothers dress – but the Halogen one would be the workhorse in my closet because the neckline makes it easy to add a sweater or blazer.

    • I got a sheath dress from Talbots Womens that I absolutely love. I only have the one dress from there, but the other items I purchased from them at the same time have held up wonderful as well and fit very nicely.

  10. Frugal doc :

    Any sheath recommendations for the pears? I’ve got nothing on top and a bigger butt. I’ve kind of accepted that I will need to tailor most dresses, so I would even appreciate recs that tailor well because of seaming/style…. Without breaking the bank.

    • Check out Boden–they have some really lovely sheaths in the “WORK” section of their website. Varies by season. They are not for the low of waist though. I’m short-waisted their stuff works best on me!

      • spring work travel :

        I’m a pear with a sort torso. This year’s Boden dresses had waists that were too high on me (bordering on empire waists, though not billed as such). Vintage 2012 Talbots and LE The Dress all worked for me in a 6.

        • Frugal doc :

          Thanks for the suggestions.

          So you think the Land’s End dress would work? I like the dress shape, but was worried when I read it ran big. My XS top (skinny arms and 34A chest) with most of the weight of my 5′ 7″ frame in the butt/thighs is a challenge.

          • I am similarly shaped and struggle with LE being too big in the bust. But I think that’s something a tailor can take care of.

      • I’ve found that Boden is For the opposite of pears – busty, slim-hipped women. And yes, all the waistlines are practically empire waists.

  11. I love the look of sheath dresses for work, but usually find them to be too short (5’8″) and waaay too spacious in the chest area (32a). While I wish I could just buy off the rack, I have some lovely patterns at home waiting to be brought to life so I think I’ll be carving more sewing time into my schedule.

    If anyone knows of any good sources for high quality fabrics that would be great! :D

    • Sewing my own is how I get my sheath dresses to fit properly too. I’m a pear with broad shoulders, somewhat long waisted, but neck to bust line is sometimes short. I often get gaping at my neckline too. Thank goodness I sew! lol.

      • Yay for sewing! It really does help ensure your clothes fit YOU perfectly. Do you use patterns or do you create your own stuff?

        • Sigh. My To-Do list has had “create a muslin sheath dress pattern” on it forever.

    • Not a lawyer :

      OMG- are you me?! Same measurements here! I live in sheath dresses when I’m not wearing a suit, but also find that many are too short or too busty. My current favs and total coup? 9&co and Black Label by Evan-Picone at JCP! They are less than $50, good suiting material with nice details, and hit about 1″ above my knees. I find they run TTS; I wear a 6. They are easy to tailor yourself with basic sewing skills.

      • Haha that’s awesome! I’ll have to check out JCP then. An inch above the knee isn’t too bad I suppose. Thanks for the tip!

    • Mood fabrics in LA and NY (they also have a webstore) is my go-to for “professional” fabrics. in NY the top floor is where you’ll find designer suiting, I got some amazing Oscar de la Renta wool/silk suiting for I think $30/yard. For cheaper buys I like, they have SO MUCH fabric. I also think Etsy can be really good for more “random” finds.

      On sheaths: I just made my first sheath dress using a cotton sateen and Butterick 5952. For my hourglass shape I made A LOT of alterations but am super-happy with the finished product and would recomend – the skirt in particular hangs very nicely from the fullest part of the rear straight down without clinging.

      • Omg Bex thanks for the suggestions! I am neither in LA nor NY so I’ll look into the webstore. I don’t think I have that Butterick pattern but I looked it up and it looks like a great dress. You should make the jacket too :D

  12. Manhattanite :

    I am so envious of being able to find sheath dresses. Petite, with large b**bs and no hips. I can do a pencil skirt and look proportional, but sheath dresses make me look very top heavy. If I can even find one that fits… why are busts always assumed to be 1 in smaller than hips?

    • I love sheath dresses and have a bunch in different cuts, but the only way I can manage with 32F b**bs and not a lot of hippage on a 5 foot 3 1/2 frame is to buy for the b***bs and then have the hips taken in. Got to have a good tailor.

  13. Need to Improve :

    I love the Sloan dress from BR. It’s extremely flattering.

  14. Amelia Pond :

    I have the Calvin Klein cap sleeve dress in both teal and black. I love them–well I guess obviously since I own two colors. I’m 5’6 and on me they hit just below the knee which I really appreciate as it can be hard to find dresses that are long enough. I am small chested and the top is a little bit gapey on me, but not bad enough not to wear.

    I bought the teal one to wear to work but I bought the black one when I was desperate for a dress that was dressier than just a plain sheath dress, but still appropriate to wear to an evening event with potential employers. All in all I am very pleased with the purchase. Especially since I got one of them off the clearance rack for $30.

    • Amelia Pond :

      I forgot–I also saw this dress at TJ Maxx a couple of weeks ago for around 60 (I think) if you are interested in trying your luck. Luckily they didn’t have my size otherwise I would have been kicking myself for paying full price at Macy’s.

    • Any tips on how to pair blazers with sheath dresses, other than just knowing it looks “right”? I would love to add some to my summer work wardrobe, but prefer to have my arms covered at work.

      • Orangerie :

        I think the trick to making this work rests on both fabric and proportion. Unless both pieces are part of the same suit, try mixing up the texture of the jacket for some visual interest. I love (and wear frequently) boucle/tweed-y jackets with my suiting fabric sheath dresses. Personally I don’t like the look of a solid color dress with a solid color blazer in the same fabric, unless one of the items is a non-neutral. IMO plain, suiting fabric blazers look the best with printed dresses.

        With respect to proportion, shorter styles tend to look better over dresses. Look for something that hits above your hip. Visual aids:

        Length to avoid:

        More flattering:

  15. Judging by the modeling, the only advertiser that appears to understand their work-wear audience is Brooks Brothers.

  16. Would love to see a hunt for dresses with sleeves—halfway down the upper arm at least. I am always freezing, and sleeveless/cap sleeves leave me shivering all day.

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