Summer 2021's Sexiest Dress Trend Is Secretly 90 Years Old

Backless Dress Trend

If you're looking to show some skin this summer, but aren't a fan of the up-to-there slit or down-to-there V-neckline, the backless dress is the slightly scandalous trend for you. While it's sexy in a subtle way, and cool enough for the hottest days, it also has a long and fascinating history that might make you appreciate these pieces a bit more.

Backless dresses actually date back well into the 1930s. With a nipped-in waist and elegantly long silhouette, many evening gowns left little to the imagination when it came to a woman's back. Sure, clothing as a whole might have been more conservative nearly a century ago, but designers certainly knew how to design a dress that showed off a little skin.

Years later, in the 1980s, backless dresses came back for another trip around the sun. Many featured a high neck in the front, designed almost backwards, and were accentuated with a long necklace hanging down a woman's spine. For the '90s and '00s, ultra-low backless dresses were in style, most notably with slip dresses that showed up on the red carpet and nightclub dance floors alike.

For summer 2021, this small yet statement-making detail is once again on our shopping list. In addition to the updated trend including sleek, silk slipdresses with a barely-there rear, flouncier puff-sleeve dresses have also gotten the backless treatment, creating a sassy-but-sweet vibe that plenty of fashion lovers are already craving.

Ahead, draw a bit of inspiration from the decades that came before, then shop the best backless dresses for every budget, just in time for warmer weather.

The ’80s

Backless Dress

Take a note from Princess Diana and style your backless dress by wearing a long strand of pearls backwards, letting them cascade down your spine.

The ’00s

Backless Dress

Hilary Swank's stunning Guy Laroche look from the 2005 Oscars is one that will forever remain on the Best Dressed list. It was all business in the front and a total party in the back.

With a Tie

Backless Dress

Many opt for a totally open-back with no closure to speak of, but whether you're going with an evening gown or a daytime sundress, consider a style that ties at the nape of the neck, like Priyanka Chopra's red version.


Backless Dress

Though you don't need to embrace butt-fashion with the visible thong trend, you can still channel Hailey Bieber on cooler days and nights by opting for a high neck and long sleeves, covering up all but a totally open back.



Silky and slinky tend to be a go-to for Y2K lovers but that hardly sums up the backless mini. Instead, search for something pleated and extra flowy, much like the Hanifa design Zendaya wore on InStyle's September cover.

Voluminous Styles

Backless Dress

Voluminous silhouettes lend themselves well to the open-back trend, with one extreme effortlessly balancing out the other.


Backless Dress

A simple white sundress is made endlessly more interesting with an open-back detail that features a few slim ties for support.

Now, shop a backless dress for yourself.

Réalisation Par The Goldie

Backless Dress

Shop now: $195;

Faithfull the Brand Lorica Open-Back Shirred Linen Mini Dress

Backless Dress

Shop now: $199;

Amalfii Two Brunch Palms Knit Dress

Shop now: $48;

Anemos The K.M. Tie Mini Dress

Backless Dress

Shop now: $265;

Victor Glemaud Long Sleeve Turtleneck Dress

Shop now: $595;

Staud Mini Alix Dress

Backless Dress

Shop now: $325;

Eloquii Textured Cotton Easy Day Dress

Intuitive Movement Helped Me Break Up with Toxic Weight Loss Culture

Shop now: $110;

Reformation Avant Long Sleeve Open Back Dress

Backless Dress

Shop now: $118;

Nasty Gal Linen Puff Sleeve Backless Dress

Backless Dress

Shop now: $27 (Originally $53);

AFRM Zelda Open Back Midi Dress

Backless Dress

Shop now: $138;

Ioannes Open-Back Asymmetric Floral-Print Stretch-Jersey Mini Dress

Backless Dress

Shop now: $510;

Zara Linen Blend Midi Dress

Backless Dress

Shop now: $50;

For Love & Lemons June Mini Dress

Backless Dress

Shop now: $222;

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