Smocked Dresses: Shop The Little-Girl Staple That Adults Are Wearing Now

If it's good enough for Princess Charlotte, it's good enough for us.

It’s not uncommon to see smocked dresses on toddlers and little girls. Princess Charlotte, for example, almost exclusively wore embroidered smocked dresses during her early public appearances (and caused many to sell out quite quickly):

The dresses Princess Charlotte wears for public appearances often sell out quickly.
The dresses Princess Charlotte wears for public appearances often sell out quickly.

But lately, the style has become a popular choice for grown women as well.

Smocking refers to the technique of gathering fabric and sewing it together in a way that lets the material stretch, and smocked dresses have roots in rural life dating back hundreds of years. But in the 2020s, we’re seeing them in the big city streets and high-rise apartments as well.

You may have already noticed smocking in the “nap dress” from Hill House Home, which exploded in popularity during the pandemic as a convenient compromise between wearing comfy PJs all day and getting fully dressed for work as if we weren’t in “unprecedented times.”

The Ellie nap dress from Hill House Home.
Hill House Home
The Ellie nap dress from Hill House Home.

The most popular style from brand Hill House Home is the Ellie, an A-line dress with smocking and ruffled shoulders that has been available in floral prints, bubblegum pink stripes, tartans, solids and more.

As the various styles from Hill House Home and other brands have shown, a “smocked dress” can involve a smocked waistband, collar, sleeves or full chest area with a skirt that flares (or in some cases the entire garment can be smocked and stretchy throughout).

The stretch of the smocking and roomy silhouettes make for a comfortable garment that can appeal to different body types. Smocked dresses are especially useful for pregnant or postpartum people, as they’re often easy to pull on and off for quick changes and breastfeeding.

When styling a smocked dress, you can lean into the girlish vibes with white sneakers and ribbons in your hair or give it some edgy contrast with dark leather accents. You may also go with a day-to-night vibe ― stay casual for everyday lounging and then dress it up with accessories and heels.

If you’re looking to try the smocked dress trend, we’ve rounded up some fun options below.

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