From Kate Moss-approved slip midis and puckered popcorn dresses to tube minis, the late-‘90s and early-‘00s were full of memorable frock styles. The latter style, in particular, was a staple at every shopping mall brand and an omnipresent fixture in pop culture. Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker made strapless tops a red carpet mainstay. Britney Spears wore a black tube dress with matching opera gloves as an honoree at the 2003 Glamour Women of the Year awards. And Victoria Beckham made form-fitting minis part of her signature Posh Spice uniform. Despite their ability to evoke human sausage casings, or tightly bandaged mummies, tube dresses were also a hit among runway designers such as Calvin Klein, Versace, and Tommy Hilfinger.
As a teenage girl, I swooned over the strapless dresses that appeared everywhere from music videos to TV shows and films. I would sift through my favorite magazines Tiger Beat, Seventeen, and YM looking for the newest tube dress styles that I could pin to my wall for outfit inspiration. But while I desperately wanted to have one in every color for every mall outing, there was a drawback to this style: It was deeply uncomfortable, requiring constant tugging and pulling at the neckline to keep the look from falling and exposing its wearer. This is perhaps one of the reasons why the style fell out of favor in the mid-2000s, giving way to more comfortable staples like baby tees and velour tracksuits.
Having packed away my tube dresses and tops in the back of my childhood closet alongside my hoarded magazine posters and teenage crush dreams, I personally never imagined this trend resurfacing. But in 2022, tube dresses are back. According to the experts at shopping platform Poshmark, in the last five years alone, the demand for the dress style has gone up by 313%, with the biggest spike happening over the last year.
“The tube dress is seeing a summer resurgence, and for good reason. It is easy to perfect for warmer weather and offers a dose of that feel-good nostalgia we're all craving — that minimalist silhouette is a total Jennifer Aniston in the ‘90s vibe,” says Chloe Barfet, Poshmark’s curation and merchandising expert. “The [traditional] skin-tight tube dress is still a thing, but we’re also seeing more sophisticated adaptations take hold, from the structured and architecturally inspired tube dress to the sleek silk charmeuse black tube dress paired with a barely-there strappy kitten heel to the country club-esque crochet-knit tube dress.”
The silhouette has also become wildly popular among TikTok tastemakers. On the app, #TubeDress has 52 million views driven by influencers who offer a modern approach to the trend with styling tips and shopping suggestions. And while a lack of size inclusivity in the ‘90s and ‘00s, with models such as Moss and Naomi Campbell and celebrities like Posh Spice and SJP modeling tube dresses, left many plus-size women feeling unable to wear the look in its first heyday, this time around, women of all sizes and body shapes are embracing the trend. (It helps that more of today's popular brands are offering a bigger range of sizes, too.)
A number of different factors have led to the tube dress’ resurgence. For the past couple of years, we have spent a great deal of time indoors wearing loungewear and oversized clothing, and it makes sense that the pendulum is now swinging in the other direction. While in the ‘00s, we traded the form-fitting style for Juicy Couture sweatsuits, having spent the last two years in sweatpants, we are willing to give up the comfort for any occasion to wear a party dress. Then there is the general resurgence of ‘90s and Y2K fashion on the runways and on social media platforms which has brought back other relics of the era like bandage dresses and low-rise jeans.
Personally, I have found my way back into the tube dress recently after finding a pink Fila number that hearkened back to my teenage years. In this dress, I recall the moments I spent in the malls trying on colors and styles that reminded me of the ones I saw in the magazines. But I no longer feel the need to compete with my school-aged friends. Nor will I be storing the style in the back of my closet anytime soon.
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