Trend Watch: The One-Shouldered Dress

A perennially favorite idea of designers to keep things interesting in a sea of sameness at formal events is the one-shouldered gown. The style has both subtle sexiness and inherent glamour. Done well, the dress adds a prominent diagonal line that gives the wearer the illusion of more height and less width. Done poorly, it can make the bodice of the dress and the wearer’s bustline look oddly off balance.


Wilma Flintstone notwithstanding, accessorizing these gowns generally calls for a bare neckline, and the celebrities wearing this style at the recent Screen Actors Guild Awards got that right. America Ferrara wore a long, sleeveless one-shoulder Monique Lhuillier dress with a lacy layer caught at her shoulder with a brooch-like design motif that curved over her shoulder. Marg Helgenberger wore a long version in basic black, although a little too starkly unadorned for my taste. Tina Fey’s short version was my favorite, accessorized with short drop earrings and a stack of dazzling white and pink bangle bracelets. 



Beyond red carpet events, the one-shouldered dress is a fashion-forward, chic option for the real woman. Visit the Saks Fifth Avenue web site to find a selection of short one-shouldered dresses by Valentino Roma (sleeveless), 7 for All Mankind (long-sleeved and rendered in denim) and my personal favorite by Ports 1961 (short sleeved, pictured). 



Earrings are the perfect accompaniment to the one-shouldered dress. Because the focus of the neckline is on a graceful neck, earrings that are not too long and blocky best allow the neck to be the unobstructed focal point. I like the clean look of cluster earrings or relatively short drop earrings.


Depending upon the design of the dress, a substantial brooch worn near the single shoulder is a beautiful way to highlight the design of the dress and to bring attention up to the wearer’s face. You may recall Cate Blanchett wearing a stunning brooch on the yellow gown she wore to a recent Academy Awards. 


Bracelets are also a wonderful accompaniment, especially worn on one wrist only to complement the asymmetry of the design. The bracelets are usually worn on the side with the bare arm to balance a short or long sleeve on the other arm. With sleeveless versions of the one-shouldered dress, the bracelets might be worn on either wrist.


Well-chosen jewelry finishes and enhances the look of one-shouldered designs.

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