June 3, 2023

The actor Lily James with slicked back hair wearing a one shoulder dress

A one-shoulder dress is like the dressy equivalent of a good button-down shirt: Both are trustworthy staples that offer versatility in your wardrobe. So, naturally, having versatility in your hairstyle options can help distinguish your effortless formal wear from one event to another. Wearing a high textured ponytail might be the perfect pairing with your one-shoulder dress for a daytime graduation ceremony, while something low, sleek and straight might fit the mood better for your annual holiday party.

The point is, your hairstyle can not only help you get multiple wears out of an already versatile one-shoulder dress, but it can create a look so fresh it’ll feel brand new. Keep reading to see which hairstyles celebrity stylists Julien Farel and Alex Brown recommend pairing with a one-shoulder dress.


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Snatched Topknot

J.Lo wearing a high top knot

Farel recommends any style that is “high and tight, totally sleek, and snatched back off the face,” like this super snatched topknot.

  • Brush the hair back until it’s all laying down smoothly.
  • Create your ponytail at the top of the crown, he says, “standing up and off the head.”
  • Twist your ponytail tight until it begins to twist around itself and secure the ends at the base with bobby pins.
  • “Use your favorite hairspray and a toothbrush to smooth baby hairs back into the hairline, all the way around,” he advises.
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Mermaid Braid

Rihanna wearing a side bride

By keeping all the hair over to the same side as your strap or sleeve, as seen here with this super chic mermaid braid, you can really show off that bare shoulder and give attention to the neckline of your dress.

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Low, Elongated Bun

Olivia Munn in low knotted bun

For those with longer strands, elongating your low bun can give the illusion of elongating your neck as well and can look quite flattering with a one-shoulder dress.

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Sleek Low Ponytail

Kerry Washington in a sleek low ponytail

Brown loves a low, sleek ponytail for one-shoulder dresses. “I love a middle part for this look,” she adds.

  • “Use a hair oil and/or pomade throughout all sections of the hair at the roots,” she says.
  • Gather the hair down at the nape of the neck and secure it with an elastic.
  • Use a rat tail comb to create a clean, straight parting.
  • “Apply more product to the ponytail,” she suggests, which will help keep those loose ends together.
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Long, Loose Waves

Amy Adams with long loose waves

Not all formal events require an updo. These long, loose waves can give a very soft, easy vibe to your look without compromising the ultra-glam effect. “A roller set will give the best bounce,” says Farel, which is exactly what you want when recreating this style.

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Side-Swept Ponytail

Beyonce wearing a low side ponytail

If your dress has a flowy single sleeve, Farel suggests trying something soft that cascades forward like this side-swept ponytail. Use a 1-inch section of hair from the back of your ponytail to wrap around the base of your elastic “making sure no ties or pins are exposed,” he says. “Chandelier earrings are strongly encouraged.”

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Classic Chignon

Rosario Dawson wearing a low chignon

Sometimes you need a tried-and-true hairstyle to match your tried-and-true one-shoulder dress. You really can’t go wrong with a classic chignon for any evening ensemble. “This look is classic glamour,” says Farel.

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Balancing Act

Lucy Liu in a low side bun

One-shoulder dress hairstyles are all about creating some balance to the dress’s asymmetry, Farel points out. Not only can your hairstyle be placed off to one side, but your parting can play off the strap, too, to help keep things in balance.

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Wild High Curls

Solange in high, wild curls

Not sure how to wear your natural curls with a standout one-shoulder dress? “Piled curls, all-up,” suggests Farel. “When the dress is exceptionally stunning, you want to showcase the details. This type of updo will allow all the details to be seen, as well as the shoulders, back, and neck.”

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A Simple Tuck

Gabrielle Union with a side swept bob

Sometimes the right hairstyle is all in the details. Brown offers a simple solution for any one-shoulder dress: “Tuck the hair behind the ear on the side with the strap to show off the dress.”

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Slick Knot

Bella Hadid in a sculpted top knot

Creating super slick styles can be great when opting for protection against heat exposure. Using a product like Virtue’s Healing Oil ($44) can nourish your strands and give your hair a level of drama without damage. For stick straight ends, use a pomade to stiffen the hair and avoid the flat iron.

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Soft, Organic Updo

Gemma Chan with a soft, organic chignon

If you’re pinched for time before going out, creating S waves with your flat iron on your face-framing sections (from the ear forward) can give any quick ‘do a soft, romantic look in minutes.

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Straight-Back Volume

Chrissy Metz with straight-back volume

Relying on no-crease clips for a straight-back style with loads of volume will help create separation in your hair. By placing them back vertically and misting your strands with your favorite hair spray, you’ll give your hair a more natural, broken-in look and avoid any unwanted shapes in the hair.

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Adorned Ballerina Bun

Selma Hayek with an adorned ballerina bun

Leaving a face-framing section to fall down around the chin will accentuate face shapes and provide great contrast on neat, high styles. We love the way this adorned ballerina bun feels a little looser with one little wisp of hair above the shoulder of the dress.

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Soft Hollywood Waves

Cate Blanchett with short, sculpted waves

“This is such an easy way to dress up your look,” says Brown. Here are her tips for creating soft waves:

  • “Use a 1.25-inch curling iron to curl hair into soft waves, curling hair away from the face,” she says.
  • “When done curling, gather the hair on the side with no strap and pick a few pieces to pin behind your ear with bobby pins,” she continues. A simple, intentional hair tuck behind the ear works just as well.
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Sculpted Natural Updo

Lupita Nyong'o with short, natural volume

Natural hair is extremely malleable, making voluminous, sculpted looks a perfect pairing with a one-shoulder dress. Start off with a little hair padding to create the overall shape of your style. By using a sock diffuser over your hair dryer at a low temperature, and pressing the sock directly into the hair, you can sculpt and fine-tune your strands into your desired shape.

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Protected and Over-Directed

Regina King wearing her braids in an over-directed side bun

Braids, on braids, on braids. Protective, heat-free styles are fab on their own, but braiding your braids into an over-directed side bun opposite of your shoulder strap? That’s an obvious head-turner.

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Deep, Diagonal Side Part

Emily Ratajkowski in a deep side parted hairstyle

Drawing attention to that one-shoulder dress may be as simple as switching your parting. “Part your hair on the side with no dress strap,” suggests Brown, “so you can show off your skin and collarbones.”

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Mod Flipped-Out Bob

Kris Jenner in a mod flipped out bob

’60s hairstyles are all the rage right now. Here’s how to get this mod bobbed look:

  • Apply a heat protectant and volumizer before blow-drying with a 1-inch round brush.
  • Smooth the hair out, pulling up from the roots for volume and rounding out at the ends.
  • Go over your blowout with a 1.25-inch curling iron, wrapping up from the ends, and clip up in sections using duck bill clips that won’t crease.
  • Wait for the hair to cool before taking your clips out, brushing the hair together and fluffing up with a thickening finishing spray if needed.
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Half-Up Half-Down

Ciara in a half-up half-down hairstyle with an accessorized center part

Farel notes that any half-up half-down hairstyle is going to be good for versatility: “She can have one side back, one side forward, to cover or expose the details of her attire as she feels.”

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Off The Shoulders

Lily James wearing a gelled back hairstyle

When highlighting the shoulder of your dress, a fully gelled back ‘do will work just as well as an updo. If you’re more comfortable wearing your hair down, opt for a wet, slicked-back look that stays behind the ears and off the shoulders.

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Lived-in Waves

Chrissy Teigen with a lived-in wavy lob

Lived-in waves can make a very luxurious one-shoulder dress feel relaxed and easy-going in the chicest way possible.

  • Use a 1.25-inch curling iron to curl medium-coarse hair or 1-inch curling iron for finer, straighter hair.
  • Direct your curls away from the face. Begin alternating directions and taking different size sections for your curls once you’ve gotten to the ears, to create that lived-in effect.
  • Leave your ends out and straight for a fuller look.
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Fringe Benefits

Rashida Jones wearing a braided side bun with a long fringe

One of the many benefits of a great fringe is that you can make them the star of the show (the show being your entire hairstyle, that is). Using a small barrel hot brush will save you loads of time and effort when it comes to styling your bangs. Pair your fringe with your updo of choice and some standout earrings, and you’re good to go.

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Brushed Out Waves

Gisele Bündchen with soft brushed out waves

One of Brown’s top five hairstyles for one-shoulder dresses is loose, brushed-out Hollywood waves with a deep side part. To emulate the look:

  • “Curl all hair in the same direction with a 1-iron,” she says.
  • “When done curling, spray a texture spray throughout (my favorite is OUAI’s Texturizing Hair Spray, $28), and brush all of your curls together creating bigger, softer waves throughout.”
  • “Finish with a light hairspray and shine spray.”