Win the Day

What Is a Multi-Purpose Dress?

by Tabitha Taft


What is a multi-purpose dress, you ask? If you’re looking for the perfect spring outfit, you’ve come to the right place.

A dress that easily transitions from work to play should be a staple of your wardrobe—and makes for a nice pared-down closet. Whether you’re at the office, traveling for work, going out on a date or meeting your parents for brunch, a dress is an essential and functional clothing item that can be dressed up or down to fit the occasion.

These foundational wardrobe pieces answer the question of what is a multi-purpose dress and make getting outfitted in the morning that much easier. A well-fitting dress (make sure to have a good tailor on speed dial) can instantly boost your confidence and make you feel ready to take on the day.

Here are three key dress shapes that will take you from the office to dinner out in style—and we bet they’ll become closet mainstays this spring.

The Shift

A shift dress is timeless. Throw a cardigan or blazer on over a sleeveless shift during the day and, at night, switch it up with a leather motorcycle jacket for a casual, edgy look. Shifts come in all sleeve lengths, so whether cap-, full-, split-, or bell-length sleeves, find the best topper for each style. Cotton, wool blends, silk, and viscose are lightweight, breathable options for warmer temperatures.

Split-Sleeve Shift Dress

The Fit-and-Flare

Every woman needs a dress that’s appropriate for work yet suitable for a party or special occasion. Fit-and-flares hug your top half while being generously cut on the bottom. Something sleeveless makes sense for spring, but when it’s cooler, elbow- or full-length sleeves work well. Selecting the right fabric is also key for versatility. Silk and other blends allow for more breathability in warmer months but keep in mind, these can be clingy. A cotton or wool blend is a good bet, and a textured trim or accent adds a nice design element.

Colorblock Polished Knit Fit-and-Flare Dress

The Wrap

A long- or short-sleeved wrap dress (this one is even reversible for the ultimate multi-purpose dress!) is a flattering addition to your closet. For a more classic look suited to a conservative office setting, opt for solid black—or, if you tend to gravitate toward patterns, try an upbeat floral pattern for spring. This silhouette is easily accessorized with a wedge heel or polished sandal. Keep a knit cardigan on hand for those days when the office air conditioning is working double time.

Reversible Floral

Accessories, as usual, will make or break these dress shapes. A neutral pump with a low heel and a tote or shoulder bag in a solid hue should be your office go-tos. After hours, you can switch to a small clutch and colorful sandals or higher heels. Keep the jewelry classic and sophisticated at work (think a simple necklace, bangles, or stud earrings), but go for a bold necklace, larger hoop earrings, or a stack of bangle bracelets when you clock out.

When curating your ensemble, look to these dress shapes and you’re likely to find investment pieces to cherish forever. Rule of thumb: it’s best to stay away from trendy silhouettes and focus on what looks—and feels—good on your body for every occasion.

Featured in this article:

Split-Sleeve Shift Dress, $99

Colorblock Polished Knit Fit-and-Flare Dress, $150

Reversible Floral/Solid Faux-Wrap Dress, $130

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