What Is a Sheath Dress?

By Stacey Kole

A staple of a fashionable wardrobe, the classic sheath features a close-fitting silhouette that encases your body. It gets its name from a sheath for a knife or sword that fits in a similarly snug -- but not clingy -- manner.

Farrah Fawcett 5th Anniversary Reception
credit: Jason Kempin/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
A hollywood actress wears a white sheath dress

The Versatile Sheath

Sheaths are typically knee-length or just a little above or below. They skim your body the whole way down, in contrast to a shift dress that flares a bit at the hem. The editors at "Real Simple" suggest that sheaths are one of the few dress styles that flatter virtually every body, thanks in large part to their versatility. Appropriate for nearly any occasion, sheath dresses can be belted; worn with a variety of necklines; and be short- or long-sleeved. Sheaths typically feature more forgiving fabrics, such as cotton-rayon blends, lightweight wool and tweed, as opposed to body-hugging knits or jersey.

Finishing Touches

The simple structure of a sheath allows for versatility in accessorizing. For work, carry a leather shoulder bag and add pumps. Put on classic jewelry, such as a gold or silver pendant and simple earrings. Evening sheaths allow for even more options. Rock a chunky cuff and dangling earrings, and slip into strappy heels. Finish with a decorative clutch that brings out a hue in your dress.