Summer 2021's Sexiest Dress Trend Is Secretly 90 Years Old
Bring on the backless designs.
If you're looking to show some skin this summer, but aren't a fan of the up-to-there slit or down-to-there V-neckline, the backless dress is the slightly scandalous trend for you. While it's sexy in a subtle way, and cool enough for the hottest days, it also has a long and fascinating history that might make you appreciate these pieces a bit more.
Backless dresses actually date back well into the 1930s. With a nipped-in waist and elegantly long silhouette, many evening gowns left little to the imagination when it came to a woman's back. Sure, clothing as a whole might have been more conservative nearly a century ago, but designers certainly knew how to design a dress that showed off a little skin.
Years later, in the 1980s, backless dresses came back for another trip around the sun. Many featured a high neck in the front, designed almost backwards, and were accentuated with a long necklace hanging down a woman's spine. For the '90s and '00s, ultra-low backless dresses were in style, most notably with slip dresses that showed up on the red carpet and nightclub dance floors alike.
For summer 2021, this small yet statement-making detail is once again on our shopping list. In addition to the updated trend including sleek, silk slipdresses with a barely-there rear, flouncier puff-sleeve dresses have also gotten the backless treatment, creating a sassy-but-sweet vibe that plenty of fashion lovers are already craving.
Ahead, draw a bit of inspiration from the decades that came before, then shop the best backless dresses for every budget, just in time for warmer weather.
Take a note from Princess Diana and style your backless dress by wearing a long strand of pearls backwards, letting them cascade down your spine.
Hilary Swank's stunning Guy Laroche look from the 2005 Oscars is one that will forever remain on the Best Dressed list. It was all business in the front and a total party in the back.
With a Tie
Many opt for a totally open-back with no closure to speak of, but whether you're going with an evening gown or a daytime sundress, consider a style that ties at the nape of the neck, like Priyanka Chopra's red version.
Though you don't need to embrace butt-fashion with the visible thong trend, you can still channel Hailey Bieber on cooler days and nights by opting for a high neck and long sleeves, covering up all but a totally open back.
Silky and slinky tend to be a go-to for Y2K lovers but that hardly sums up the backless mini. Instead, search for something pleated and extra flowy, much like the Hanifa design Zendaya wore on InStyle's September cover.
Voluminous silhouettes lend themselves well to the open-back trend, with one extreme effortlessly balancing out the other.
A simple white sundress is made endlessly more interesting with an open-back detail that features a few slim ties for support.
Now, shop a backless dress for yourself.
Réalisation Par The Goldie
Shop now: $195; realisationpar.com
Faithfull the Brand Lorica Open-Back Shirred Linen Mini Dress
Shop now: $199; net-a-porter.com
Amalfii Two Brunch Palms Knit Dress
Shop now: $48; amalfii.com
Anemos The K.M. Tie Mini Dress
Shop now: $265; anemosswim.com
Victor Glemaud Long Sleeve Turtleneck Dress
Shop now: $595; fwrd.com
Staud Mini Alix Dress
Shop now: $325; shopbop.com
Eloquii Textured Cotton Easy Day Dress
Shop now: $110; eloquii.com
Reformation Avant Long Sleeve Open Back Dress
Shop now: $118; nordstrom.com
Nasty Gal Linen Puff Sleeve Backless Dress
Shop now: $27 (Originally $53); nastygal.com
AFRM Zelda Open Back Midi Dress
Shop now: $138; nordstrom.com
Ioannes Open-Back Asymmetric Floral-Print Stretch-Jersey Mini Dress
Shop now: $510; net-a-porter.com
Zara Linen Blend Midi Dress
Shop now: $50; zara.com
For Love & Lemons June Mini Dress
Shop now: $222; revolve.com