A babydoll dress by any other name might be more inviting. Their puffy sleeves and flouncy skirts are whimsical and a little flirtatious at their best; pure wedding guest material. In the hands of viral sensation Selkie, they’re wearable, bucolic escapism. Then there’s that name—and the incorrect suspicion that these dresses are just for kids.
With the runway as your guide and a few choice styling tweaks, babydoll dresses can look—dare we say it?—undeniably cool. When I ask Jaclyn Alexandra Cohen, fashion and accessories editor here at BAZAAR, for some styling advice, she recommends a lesson in opposites. Share your babydoll dress with a chunky combat or Chelsea boot. “The key is a heavy weight sole to balance the flounce and femininity to the look,” she says. “The designers that do this well have made it somewhat of a signature in their collections, like McQueen, Valentino, Simone Rocha, and Alaïa.”
“When it comes to styling playful and girly silhouettes like the babydoll dress, you will really want to hone in on your shoe selection,” stylist Candace Read agrees. She’s also a proponent of layering with jackets, whether slung under your shoulders or pulled on all the way. “Be sure to cuff and scrunch those sleeves regardless if you are wearing it on figure or draped across the shoulders—the details communicate that elevated and grown-up look,” she says.
Cohen has another hot styling take: Wear your babydoll dress with your most athletic sneakers. “There’s something so charming about an aerodynamic sporty stretch sneaker with these voluminous and at times couture-like dresses,” she tells me, nodding to Cecilie Bahnsen and Sandy Liang’s spring 2022 collections as the most exemplary. “Maybe it feels like we’re fully leaning into how we wore these as actual babies, but something about it feels so right.”
With those notes in hand, shop the 17 best—and most grown-up—babydoll dresses ahead.