On the streets of New York Fashion Week, show-goers are known to take risks, clashing patterns and mismatching shoes (and to be clear, we live for it). While not all street style outfits end up being practical for regular wear, in select cases, the atypical layering methods seen during fashion’s peak seasons are just creative enough to work.
One shining example of this phenomenon occurred when Leandra Medine hit the streets of fall 2019 New York Fashion Week wearing a dickey over the top of her jacket, rather than below it. The addition of a dickey was surprising yet low-key, and in that moment, I knew I needed one.
If you don’t spend your time scouring street style images on Getty and/or reading up on the history of trends like I do, it’s likely that I’ve already lost you. See, in the realm of fashion, dickeys are simply a sleeveless alternative to a sweater, often hidden underneath a jacket of some sort. Dickeys are at once a cute winter accessory and functional layering tool. They slip over your head the way any sweater would, but here's the kicker: They have no sides. Or arm holes. Or really anything other than a place through which to slip your head and a cozy panel running down the front. Still, despite their shortcomings, they manage to be cool.
Like many of today's top trends for women, the dickey got its start in menswear. According to Darnell Jamal Lisby, a fashion historian working at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, men in the 1880s wore them over button-down shirts to dress up tuxedos and suits. Created as a means of convenience, they made laundry both easier and cheaper for businessmen who were required to wear a suit every day but weren’t paid enough to regularly launder their shirts. “One can equate the dickey to makeup in a strange way; it was used to hide blemishes and emote a pristine image,” Lisby explained. But similar to today’s use of dickeys, they were also ornamental: “The dickey represents a hint of decoration that had been quelled in menswear over the 19th century.”
Fast forward to winter 2019. Following Leandra Medine and her heavily photographed dickey on the streets of New York, it became clear to me that these odd accessories were on the rise. Tibi introduced the dickey in its fall 2019 collection, presenting three colors in heavy merino wool. “They sold out nearly immediately,” says Tibi Creative Director Amy Smilovic. “Dickeys simply solve a problem; we all love our blazers and wearing sweaters in the winter, but it’s nearly impossible to wear both at the same time. Dickeys give you that ability.”
Veronica Miele Beard and Veronica Swanson Beard — the duo behind Veronica Beard, a brand that’s been designing dickeys for years — agree. “Dickeys are a chic answer to everyday dressing and layering without the bulk,“ Swanson Beard explains. Bruno Sialelli went on to send a cropped, baby blue alternative down the runway at Lanvin's FW19 show in Paris.
Now, it’s as if every fast-fashion brand and their sister label is making a dickey of their own, whether it be COS offering knit hoodies or & Other Stories selling cashmere turtlenecks.
So as a love letter of sorts to these non-sweaters that have taken my heart (and taken over my wardrobe), I thought I'd share what I’ve learned in my quest for the perfect dickey with a comprehensive guide to mastering the reinvented trend.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.