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What comes to mind when you think of a 1980s denim dress? Acid wash with shoulder pads, voluminous sleeves, and a dropped waist? Or maybe a tiered ruffle skirt and double-breasted buttons?

Eek. However, the denim dress can be a versatile and stylish piece when styled with modern flair. 

The denim dress can and should be a wardrobe staple in your 2020 fashion forecast…and we’ll show you how to make it work day after day. Take a seat and explore our guide for how to style denim dresses, complete with inspo from our favorite fashion heroes and the decades that inspire them.

We’ve got ideas to suit the four key denim dress styles: the shirt dress, the wiggle dress, the shift dress, and the overall dress. 


The denim shirt dress and tan belt: 1970s earth-tones 

Celebrity inspiration: Kate Bosworth always serves excellent 70s-inspired street style with flared jeans, oversized sunglasses, and a carefree sense of chic.

Kate often styles her denim with earth-toned leather in the form of shoes, bags, or belts. A denim shirt dress styled with a tan belt and leather boots is the perfect way to embrace the trend for everyday wear. 


  • Any tan leather belt works, especially if it’s on the thinner side, or even braided in true bohemian style 
  • Accessorize the look with classic gold hoop earrings and a tan leather satchel bag
  • For cooler months, add a pair of tights and knee-high leather boots
  • To take it from casual to “let’s go out!” add a bright red lip and swap your boots for a pair of heeled pumps or strappy sandals 

The denim pencil dress and heels: 1950s wiggle 

Celebrity inspiration: If you haven’t seen Jennifer Lopez’s new Guess campaign, you must! In the image below she rocks a tight, sleeveless denim dress that hugs her insanely gorgeous body.

She serves super-powered 1950s wiggle style with a little 90s flair with her nude makeup. This is how to style the denim pencil dress.


  • Halter-neck styles with ruched or gathered busts are extra flattering and serve super bombshell style 
  • If you’re a little uneasy about rocking a figure-hugging dress, make yourself more comfortable by wearing firm shapewear underneath, and opt for thick, sturdy denim 
  • To tone down the sex appeal, layer the dress with a long blazer or even an open menswear-style shirt 
  • For the ultimate “going out” outfit, style with heeled pumps or T-bar heels, a red lip, and voluminous hair 
  • For a more pared-down style for Fall and Winter, layer with opaque tights, heeled boots, and long-line cardigan or duster coat 

The denim shift dress and boots: 1960s mod 

Celebrity inspiration: Alexa Chung is hands down the Queen of denim street style. Her lithe and Twiggy-like figure means she can serve 1960s style like the best.

We especially love how she styles shift dresses with such incredible simplicity, all the while looking the epitome of chic. 


  • Start with your denim shift and a pair of knee-high leather boots (heeled, if possible!) 
  • Sparingly add accessories to build up the look, such as a fedora or stetson hat, or a bold-toned silk scarf tied around the neck
  • For Fall and Winter, copy Alexa and try a pair of pale-hued tights in a textured pattern, ankle boots, and a long-sleeved tee under your shift (if it is sleeveless)
  • For true 1960 style, try thick black eyelashes and pale pastel lips 


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The denim overall dress and tank or t-shirt: 1990s cute 

Celebrity inspiration: if there’s a closet we’d love to raid, it’s Taylor Swift’s! Taylor’s street style is so varied and always makes a statement, whether it’s bohemian hippy or French chic.

However, one our our favourite outfits was a sweet little denim overall dress layered with a simple red tank and sneakers. She looked so fresh, Spring-ready, and relaxed. Let’s copy our girl Taylor. 


  • Go with the seasons! For Spring and Summer, layer the dress with a tank or crop, for Fall and Winter, layer with a long-sleeved tee or even a plaid shirt 
  • Make the outfit your own by accessorizing with layered gold necklaces, hoop earrings, or a choker necklace for true 80s reminiscence
  • For a casual stroll to the shop, go for your trusty sneakers or trainers
  • To elevate the look to going-out levels, choose heeled ankle booties or pumps, and layer a metallic lurex long-sleeved tee underneath
  • Tie a plaid shirt around the waist for extra layering and contrasting tones (extra points if you can rock a skateboard)

About The Author

May is totally crazy about the 80s and everything the decade inspired! Having grown up in a household that was totally taken over by 80s music and fashion its only natural that May lives and breathes the 80s!

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