1950s Style Wiggle Dresses by The House of Foxy
Vintage inspired dresses that make you wiggle while you walk - giving your the perfect 1950s hourglass figure. Made in Great Britain by The House of Foxy
Up to a size 24
Perfect party dress
The ultimate little black dress
Early 60s inspired
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Party Dress Purgatory
I love vintage clothing because it’s quirky. I especially love mid-century vintage because it was made in an era when women tailored their own clothes and often had larger bust-to-waist sizes, so I can actually find dresses that match my natural proportions. I carry a measuring tape in my purse everywhere so if I find a dress and can’t try it on (like at yard sales or some thrift shops), I can take measurements to see if something will fit. When I buy a dress online, I only buy dresses with posted measurements of the bust, waist, and hips (shoulder width is, as you will see, also very important. If you are going to sell vintage online, including shoulder width is also very helpful!). Usually, you can tell if a dress will fit by the measurements. Sometimes, though, numbers can fail you.
Folks, meet The Dress No One Can Wear:
Okay, so obviously someone made and wore this dress at some point, but this dress confuddles me. It’s a beautiful late 50s/early 60s dress made of a back and white woven fabric frosted with hundreds of hand-placed, prong-set glass rhinestones. It’s gorgeous and subtly glitters all over from neckline to hem. The dress’s measurements are 35/36” bust, 26” waist, and 38” inch hips. I planned on wearing it with my eBay corset and I was super excited because many vintage dresses have very narrow shoulders, but this dress has a wide portrait neckline SUPPOSEDLY made to fit 16-17 inch shoulders:
However, when I got it home, I couldn’t even get it past my neck. Nothing is more frustrating than being excited about a dress finally fitting your shoulders only to have it hang up at that very spot. The top-heavy triangle strikes again! So I set the dress aside for a while and pretty much forgot about it. I found it again yesterday and decided that since I couldn’t wear it, I should sell it. It’s always nice to have pictures of the dress on a dress form so people can see how it hangs and fits on a 3D form rather just limp on a hanger. I got out my trusty dress form, set the measurements to 33-25-36 and tried to put the dress on it. This happened:
Once again, the dress hung up around the shoulders of the form, which surprised me because the dress form’s shoulders are only 15 inches wide (and have no arms to fanangle with). I tried pulling the dress up from the hips, but once again, it went nowhere. So I pulled out the absolute smallest dress form I have—my homemade mannequin made from egg crate foam, batting, and tape that I use for the smallest Victorian dresses and whom I lovingly call “Eunice:”
The inside of Eunice, revealing her egg crate core. She’s then swathed in batting and cinched into a cheap corset, so I can adjust her size as needed.
Eunice is teensy, measuring 30-23-34. Her shoulders are only 13 inches across, so I knew that if anyone could wear The Dress No One Can Wear, Eunice could! And indeed, with much difficulty, I was able to get the DNOCW over Eunice’s shoulders. It fit!
At least, from the front, it appeared that way. The back, however, reveals that Eunice is woefully tiny for the DNOCW:
Her waist is too short and small, her bust inadequate, and her shoulders just fall right through the neckline. I thought about just adding padding between Eunice and the dress until it filled out, but the fact that I still struggled to get the dress over Eunice’s puny shoulders and bust only to have both areas be too small bothered me. Why wouldn’t this dress fit anything?!
The answer, it appears, is in the zipper placement. Running up the side of the DNOCW is a sturdy metal zipper. It starts very low on the hips and runs up to the bust area. The problem is, it hits too low on the bust to allow the dress to expand wide enough to slide over the body, terminating just below the apex of the bust rather than at or above it. A seamstress put a lot of diligent hard work into making this party dress, so I doubt she would go to all the trouble of bedazzling a dress that refuses to fit. Since the zipper does go so deep into the hip, I’m wondering if this dress was made for/by a pear shaped lady who was more concerned with the fit through the hips than the bust.
The apex of the bust is about 1 inch above the end of the zipper.
Whatever the case, I will never be able to wear this dress and looking at it just makes me want to ugly cry from frustration. The Dress No One Can Wear is currently listed for $25 on Etsy, so if you are a contortionist, willing to move the zipper, or think you know the secret to getting into this Chinese-finger-trap-of-a-dress, please check out the listing. I’d love for this dress to finally find someone smaller/more lithe than I who can turn the “Dress No One Can Wear” into “The Dress I Can Totally Wear!”
Published by Liz
Fabrics, Art, Books, Tea, Cats, Science, Humor, Research, and Cookies are my life. View all posts by Liz
What’s a Wiggle Dress? Know Your Vintage Style
What’s a wiggle dress? You might have come across this term, if you love reading about vintage fashion history. Or, perhaps you stumbled upon one on the clothing rack, and a sales person identified it for you. Now it’s time to learn about this popular dress style from the 50s.
Definition of a Wiggle Dress
A wiggle dress is narrower at the hemline than the hips. The hemline is usually anywhere from the knees to mid-calf. If you think that sounds hard to walk in, you would be right! This design caused women to walk with little steps and swaying hips — or a ‘wiggle’ in other words! The skirt of a wiggle dress has a little slit or pleat in it, which allows for the wearer to walk.
Other Details of the Dress
The top half of the dress is usually fitted, and might contain large buttons down the front, a small collar, and a zipper in the back. The dress is tailored at the waist, and could include a wide belt to accentuate a narrow waist. Some wiggle dresses have pockets at the hips, buttons down the front of the dress, or side panels to highlight an hourglass figure.
When Were They Popular?
Wiggle dresses are also called pencil dresses or sheath dresses. They first became popular in the 40s, and popularity grew in the fifties. The look stayed in style until the 60s. When feminist and women’s liberation movements started to gain momentum within the fashion industry of the sixties, this dress went out of style. It restricts movement, which is the opposite of liberation! It’s rare to see this design in contemporary fashion, maybe for that very reason.
How To Wear a Wiggle Dress
Did you find a great vintage wiggle dress? If you’d like to wear it for a night out on the town, try pairing it with a rockabilly hair and makeup look; sculpt your hair into large voluptuous curls, and wear bright red lipstick and dramatic eyeliner. If you’re going for a softer, daytime look, you might pair your dress with a cozy cardigan to balance out the streamline look of your dress.
The term wiggle dress was new to me, so I really liked learning about it. I love vintage fashion history, especially from the middle of the last century. It is so interesting how culture changes over the years! I hope that if this term was new to you, too, that you now understand it a little bit better. If you find a wiggle dress, do you think you’ll buy it and wear it out? Let me know in the comments section, below!
Filed Under: 40s, 60s, Articles, Dating Vintage
“1950s wiggle dress”
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