How to Style a Shirt Dress: Practical Tips and Ideas

A shirt dress is an essential part of every wardrobe, as it offers a multitude of styling possibilities – from sophisticated to casual.

To learn how to style a shirt dress, always think about the occasion. To simplify the process, we categorized all dresses by color and designed outfits for various events.

We have also thoroughly examined each of these ensembles to support you in mastering the fundamentals of shirt dress styling.

How to style light-colored shirt dresses?

Casual shirt dress outfit

To craft the first style, we opted for a white shirt dress of medium-length and complemented it with a denim jacket. The jacket is tailored to have a straight fit while the waistline of the dress was accentuated by a belt. A denim jacket can be changed into a brown or black leather jacket.

For shoes, we chose Alexander McQueen sneakers with a metallic finish to create visual harmony and interest. The shoulder bag should be in warm colors like yellow or brown to add playfulness.

  1. Loewe: Appliquéd Light Blue Denim Jacket (Similar)
  2. Jil Sander: Belted Pleated White Cotton-Poplin Midi Shirt Dress
  3. Alexander Mcqueen: Exaggerated-Sole Metallic Leather Sneakers (Similar)

White shirt dress with a red shoulder bag

For our second sample, we opted for the timeless combination of white and red. A white midi shirt dress with embroidery detailing with white leather woven slides provided the foundation, while a shoulder bag in a vibrant red hue added a touch of vibrancy.

The color red can be further amplified by emphasizing it with repeating motifs in accessories like a silk scarf. This approach will help achieve visual harmony in your ensemble.

Consider adding some delicate gold jewelry to enhance the golden buckle on your handbag.

  1. Saint Laurent: Solferino Medium Red Leather Shoulder Bag
  2. Paco Rabanne: Broderie Anglaise White Cotton-Poplin Midi Shirt Dress
  3. Saint Laurent: Tribute Woven White Leather Slides

Maxi wool shirt dress for winter

Although this dress is formally classified as a shirt dress, it is made of wool and is perfect for the cold season. This dress has an elegant silhouette that accentuates the waist, however, to complete the ensemble, pair it with a darker leather belt.

Long-cut winter dresses look great with knee boots and a fedora (here you can learn how to create outfits with sweater dresses). Monochrome off-white and bright brown became the basic colors, and burgundy knee boots with a pattern created an additional dimension. Both ankle boots and knee-high boots could be footwear alternatives.

Long, straight cuffs will look great under a long cardigan or coat.

  1. Beare Park: Pleated Off-White Wool-Crepe Maxi Shirt Dress
  2. Gigi Burris: Jeanne Sateen-Trimmed Light Brown Wool-Blend Felt Fedora
  3. Paris Texas: Croc-Effect Burgundy Leather Knee Boots

Light blue shirt dress with a vest

This light blue shirt dress is perfect for summer. It features an accentuated waist, slightly puffed three-quarter sleeves, and an asymmetric cut skirt. In addition, the vertical lines visible in its fabric visually elongates the body silhouette.

We created an outfit with a beige vest and flats for a casual look.

  1. Stella McCartney: Pinstriped Light Blue Cotton Shirt Dress
  2. We Norwegians: Alta Beige Merino Wool Blend Hoodie (Similar)
  3. Roger Vivier: Gommettine Taupe Patent-Leather Point-Toe Flats

How to style dark-colored shirt dresses?

Brown shirt dress with a green cardigan

In this example, we wanted to illustrate how to match the combination of classic colors – a brown shirt dress with a dark green cardigan and golden leather slides. We noticed that it is the dark green shade that complements this brown shade, giving it richness.

As an alternative, you can choose a dark blue denim shirt dress, which will go well with a dark green cardigan.

As for the silhouette, the belt of the dress accentuates the waist, while the straight-cut sweater creates balance.

Visual interest is provided not only by the range of rich colors but also by different fabrics and their patterns – cotton monochromic dress, cable-knit sweater, and leather slides.

  1. Madeleine Thompson: Allegra Cable-Knit Dark Green Wool and Cashmere-Blend Cardigan
  2. Max Mara: Flavio Belted Brown Cotton-Poplin Midi Shirt Dress
  3. Aquazzura: Sundance Metallic Gold Leather Slides

Shirt dress in a combination with a blazer and knee boots

A casual look can be easily transformed into a more formal one. We chose the same brown shirt dress and matched it with a blazer and knee boots. For colors and patterns, although all the fabrics are monochrome, the different fabrics create enough variety. The dress and shoes form a base of warm colors, and a cool gray blazer completes the ensemble.

The rest of the accessories should be in lighter colors to create a visual balance.

  1. Alaïa: Oversized Gray Wool-Tweed Blazer
  2. Max Mara: Flavio Belted Brown Cotton-Poplin Midi Shirt Dress
  3. Christian Louboutin: Kate Botta 85 mm Dark Brown Suede Knee Boots

A classical black shirt dress

Both black and white shirt dresses are classic wardrobe pieces with which you can easily create many different ensembles.

In this example, we illustrated how to create an outfit with a black shirt dress, glasses of the same color, and a beige handbag with stripes. To create a harmonious ensemble, choose shoes and other accessories in green and red as seen on the handbag.

A lighter shade of leather jacket would also work well here.

  1. Brunello Cucinelli: Belted Black Cotton-Blend Poplin Midi Shirt Dress
  2. Loewe: Round Frame Black Acetate Sunglasses (Similar)
  3. Gucci: Ophidia Leather-Trimmed Printed Coated-Canvas Beige Tote

Dark blue shirt dress for a special occasion

To create an outfit for a special event, we chose a dark blue long-cut shirt dress. This color can be a bit challenging.

In principle, a dark color should be contrasted with lighter clothes. For a special or formal event, a blazer is a good choice. We didn’t want to create a black-and-white effect, so a checked blazer turned out to be the ideal option.

Dark colors are best complemented by lighter tones. For a special or formal occasion, we opted for a blazer. Rather than having a black-and-white effect, we have chosen a checked blazer to add some vibrance and contrast.

For a formal look, choose pumps with a pointed toe.

  1. Versace: Checked Wool-Blend Tweed Blazer
  2. Staud: Millie Embellished Belted Taffeta Navy Maxi Shirt Dress
  3. Saint Laurent: Tribute Woven Black Leather Mules

How to style bright and multi-colored shirt dresses?

Orange linen shirt dress

Styling a bright shirt dress can be difficult but the key is to find ways to balance its strong colors. Pair it with dark accessories or a jacket.

  1. Gabriela Hearst: McGraw Belted Embroidered Orange Linen Midi Shirt Dress
  2. Velvet Canyon: Beatniks Cat-Eye Black Acetate Sunglasses
  3. Saint Laurent: Tribute Woven Black Leather Mules

Floral-print shirt dress

Another challenge is shirt dresses with brightly colored patterns.

The base color of this dress is ecru, so we chose a light shade of handbag and shoes to create a balanced look.

  1. Dries Van Noten: Pleated Belted Floral-Print Cotton-Poplin Wrap Dress
  2. Bottega Veneta: Handle Mini Intrecciato White Leather Tote
  3. Saint Laurent: Tribute Woven White Leather Slides

Burgundy shirt dress with a purple bag

Another easy way to create visual balance with patterned dresses is to replicate the colors and motifs seen in the dress. Cream leather mules create the base, and a lilac handbag adds visual interest to the overall look.

  1. Altuzarra: Ariadne Burgundy Tie-Dyed Stretch-Cotton Midi Shirt Dress
  2. Bottega Veneta: Handle Mini Intrecciato Lilac Leather Tote
  3. Aeyde: Amanda Cream Leather Mules

How to style a shirt dress easily?

  1. Consider the occasion. For a formal or special event, opt for monochromic white or brown shirt dresses in midi-length. Layer them with tailored pieces like blazers or coats. Opt for pumps with a pointy toe to finish the look. For a more relaxed, everyday look, style your shirt dress with a cardigan or vest and style it with white sneakers.
  2. Think silhouette. Shirt dresses are defined by their V-shaped neckline and accentuated waist. To emphasize the waist even more, change the original belt to more contrasting colors. Pair the dress with a straight-cut cardigan or jacket. There are a few more secrets. Vertical lines elongate your body, while horizontal lines give more volume.
  3. Think color combinations. White and brown shirt dresses are the perfect starting point because they pair effortlessly with any other hue. Black and dark dresses can be more difficult to match, as you will need to look for lighter or contrasting shades to create visual interest.
  4. Combine different fabrics. Shirt dresses don’t have to be limited to just the fabric of their original. Match up different textures and fabrics, such as denim or leather, to create a unique look.
  5. Repeat the motives. Brightly colored dresses can be difficult to create outfits. In that case, create a dark base from other layers or accessories. If the dress has a pattern, repeat the motifs and colors in the other items to create a balanced look.


Shirt dresses are versatile wardrobe staples that can be styled for any occasion. They create a timeless look and highlight the waistline.

In this article, we covered how to style a shirt dress. We created different outfits and described the rules consistently used in each look.

As a general rule, consider the occasion and create a balanced look with different fabrics, colors, and silhouettes. To add visual interest, layer them with a cardigan, vest, or blazer.

Featured image by Maxim Klemedinov.

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