A halter dress typically describes a backless dress that is secured at the back of the neck and the waistline. This type of dress is usually worn as summer clothing or evening wear. Halter dresses can be purchased in varying lengths including mini, tea, and floor length. A mini halter dress is typically considered a dress with a hemline that is well above the knee, while a tea length dress describes a dress that just touches the knee. Generally, a halter dress can be made of any type of fabric with the exception of heavy winter fabrics such as wool or fleece.
The bodice design of halter style dresses is usually very similar, but in most cases the neckline is either sweetheart style or V shaped. This is because those are the two styles best suited to extended ties. The skirting however can be in most any style. Some halter dresses have gathered, very full skirts, while other are tight, much like the 1940s “wiggle” or “pin-up” dresses. Halter dresses with very tight skirting usually have slits in back so the wearer will be able to take normal steps when walking.
A summer halter dress is usually made of soft, cool fabrics such as linen, cotton, and cotton blends. They can be purchased in both solid colors and prints. Halter style dresses that are designed for daywear are usually very casual, but they can be made more formal by adding a lightweight summer jacket or wrap. Some styles of halter dresses are designed as beachwear and are often made using large tropical prints.
In many cases, it may be necessary to wear a slip or petticoat underneath a summer halter dress, because the fabrics used are often semi-sheer. Semi-sheer describes a fabric that can be seen through in certain types of direct lighting. While the bodice of halter dresses is usually lined, only more expensive ones come with lining in the skirting.
Halter dresses are popular designs for both winter and summer evening wear. Evening wear fabrics for a summer halter dress might include lined chiffon and lightweight silks and satins. Winter gowns might be constructed of velvet, taffeta, or heavier silks. In many cases, the bodice of the gowns are embellished with embroidery or beading.
Fashion history seems to indicate that halter dresses first became popular during the 1940s. In the beginning, they were generally considered somewhat scandalous, and were only accepted as beach or evening wear. Since then, the design has become a standard in the fashion industry.