SS23 catwalks clung to the sentiment of shrunken hemlines and models ushered down the runway in larger-than-life babydoll dresses, in the wake of the micro miniskirt. Cecilie Bahnsen and Simone Rocha were some of the designers to produce whimsical minis with pronounced silhouettes and taffeta aplenty.

The babydoll dress was coined in 1956, courtesy of Elia Kazan’s Baybydoll, where we were first introduced to the cotton-rich flounced nightgown, swiftly followed by Balenciaga couture and styles of the swinging ‘60s. It’s since evolved to the versions we’re familiar with today. 2023’s iterations are full and vibrant, with layers of organza, tulle and circle skirts.

Typically, babydoll dresses are defined by a pinched empire waistline, full-skirted smock element and a raised hem, however, some designers have introduced modern elements and play on longer lengths and proportions. When I think about babydoll designs with a modern lilt, I refer to Molly Goddard’s dresses which are usually favoured in costume design and formal events. Her styles are playful and evoke the essence of dressing. I can’t help but think of Abercrombie and Fitch’s viral summer dress last year, with the full-skirted component and lowered waistline. The mini shirred dress also bears a likeness, as the tautness of an elasticated waist encourages a full skirt.

Selkie, Molly Goddard and Cecilie Bahnsen are brands that have specialised in babydoll dresses long before its reclaim, with styles that convey whimsicality for the modern woman.

We’re in the midst of significant pop culture moments that have inspired ‘more is more’ dressing, from the Barbie reboot to Disney’s Live-Action The Little Mermaid, inspiring the ‘Mermaidcore’ and ‘Barbiecore’ phenomenon, and I’m certain the era of dressing up has only just begun.

Keep scrolling to see my edit of the best babydoll dresses for summer. There’s something for lovers of saturated hues, minimalists and a few wild cards thrown in for good measure.


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