A bit of fashion history: The shift (also known as the chemise) debuted in the late 1950s as a sleeveless, slim-fitting dress that barely reached the knee — a scandalously short hemline at the time. The shift is cut straight down from the shoulders, flows slightly away from the body at the hips and lacks a defined waist, making it the perfect shape for sticky summer weather and/or gluttonous dinner parties.
Shift dresses reached their heyday with mid-1960s mod fashion: hemlines went even higher, and knee-length go-go boots completed the look. Moda Luna, at 5164 Broadway, has two examples that harken back to that pop psychedelic era. Bisou d’Eve’s version is color blocked like a Mondrian painting in kelly green and white cotton. Darts under the bust give it a subtle A-line shape. Collective Concepts cranks up the grooviness factor with a boldly colored wave print and a gathered bubble hem ($55).
Anthropologie offers two classic, ladylike shift dresses in the season’s most important color, a sunny dandelion yellow. Generra’s is made of a grandma-like heavy jacquard with easy side pockets — an exposed back zipper (a subtle rock ’n’ roll detail made popular over the last few years by designers like Lanvin) keeps it fresh and young ($248). The Rain-in-Spain shift is so named because it is, in fact, very plain. With a
demure scoop neck in front, the only detail is a bit of a gather and some sweet yellow buttons in back — perfect for minimalists ($168).