What is a Halter Dress?

Susan Grindstaff

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.

Nude pantyhose perfectly compliment halter dresses of every style and color.
Nude pantyhose perfectly compliment halter dresses of every style and color.

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.

Some wedding dresses are designed in a halter style.
Some wedding dresses are designed in a halter style.

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.

Wedding dresses may be designed in a halter style with a sweetheart neckline.
Wedding dresses may be designed in a halter style with a sweetheart neckline.

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Discussion Comments


I wore a blue satin halter dress to my prom, and it was the prettiest dress I have ever owned. I'm sad that I can't wear it often, because it is simply too dressy to wear to anything but the fanciest of events.

It looks like a strapless gown, but the material rises a bit in the middle of the top, where the pieces that go around my neck ascend. The dress had two different slots for the hook to go through, so it was a little bit adjustable.

I would have felt vulnerable in a dress that was totally strapless, but I felt fairly secure in this halter dress. I knew that it could not fall off while I was dancing, because it was snugly fastened around my neck.


@wavy58 – I know how you feel. I do feel a bit exposed when I wear a halter dress, simply because so much of my back is showing, and I'm not used to that.

However, since my hair has grown out really long, I can wear one now and have my back covered. I like the style of long cotton halter dresses, because they are generally thicker than other kinds.

I feel more dressed up when I wear a halter dress, even if it is made of mostly cotton. There is something so stylish about the design of the top. I think that solid color halter dresses have a powerful visual effect, because you have all that material of one color and then an interesting neckline.


I have a swimsuit that looks like a really short halter dress. It is a one piece, and it ties behind my neck.

The bottom does have a bikini seat, but this is covered by a ruffly skirt. So, it looks like I'm wearing a dress.

I prefer halter swimdresses to two piece bathing suits, because I like the coverage that they provide. I feel like my cellulite and fat lumps are well hidden underneath all that material.

It kind of reminds me of the swimsuits women wore back in the '50s and '60s. It's probably a little bit shorter than those, but the basic design is similar.


I generally only wear halter dresses while I'm vacationing at the beach. There, everyone else is wearing halter style clothing, so I don't feel as exposed and conspicuous.

I have a long purple halter dress that reaches all the way to my ankles. It has a padded bra made into it, and the two sides meet around the back of my neck.

I wouldn't feel as secure in a halter dress that simply ties in a knot as I do in this one. It has a clasp similar to that of a bra, so a piece of plastic actually hooks under the material.

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