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What is a Tent Dress?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 21, 2024
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A tent dress is an A-line garment with the capital letter "A" shape being the narrowest at the neckline and the widest at the hem. It is shaped like a typical A-frame tent, hence the name. The tent dress was first made popular in the 1960s when women's dresses became much less structured in style than the cinch-waist, much more tailored dresses of the 1950s.

Most of these dresses are quite short in length and usually range from a mini skirt length to just below the knee. A tent dress may be in a sleeveless summer style or it may be long-sleeved with a turtleneck. These dresses can be made of practically any fabric, pattern and color and may be worn by girls and women of any age and figure type.

The inventor of the petite dress size, Hannah Troy, was a strong promoter of the tent dress. She felt it was a flattering and stylish look for the more full-figured type of woman. These dresses are also very easy to wear as many of them just slip on or have a single zipper.

The tent dress is one of the most versatile garments a woman can have in her wardrobe. For example, a tent dress in a solid color made from a season-spanning fabric can be worn to any event from a funeral to a wedding. If the dress is short, it may even look great as a casual tunic over pants. A sleeveless dress can be worn solo in summer months or topped with a jacket or sweater and even worn with tights in cooler weather. A knee-length tent dress worn with the right suit jacket and accessories can look perfect for a business meeting or a job interview.

Many of today's designers have come up with modern versions of the 1960s version. Donna Karan had a gray cotton tent dress with a pleated front and an attached scarf, while Nicole Miller's version was a black summer garment with a dramatic blue butterfly print on the front. The wide variety of dresses available means that a woman can have several of this style in her wardrobe without looking like she has many dresses in the same style. Plus, the shape of the dress can even be changed by adding a belt.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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