Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Retro is Modern - 1950s Party Dresses

Marilyn Monroe, Photo Courtesy of  We Heart Vintage

My love of 1950s vintage attire and accessories, my fascination with the clothing styles worn by the female characters during earlier seasons of Mad Men and my recent discovery of replica retro-clothing boutique Bettie Page have converged in time for the holiday party season. The result: My perspective of the difference between party dresses in the 1950s and party dresses now.

1950s Fit and Flare Dress; Photo Courtesy of OMG That Dress
I can not express my love for 1950s party dresses without giving proper homage to fit and flare dresses. In the 1950s fit and flare dresses was the dress style of choice for parties. This must have been a great relief for women since fit and flare dresses are flattering for many types of figures. The bodice of fit and flare dresses effectively highlights the figure of women whom have curvaceous or pear-shaped figures since they emphasize the small waist of women with these body types. Fit and flare dresses also have a ladylike quality that is unmatched. Women often enhanced the skirt of the dresses by wearing crinolines to create a circular skirt shape or petticoats to enhance the flare shape.

1950s Red Tulle Dress, Photo Courtesy of Posh Girl Vintage

Another type of dress style that was quite commonly worn to parties was more fitted in shape with a full or tea-length hemline. These form-fitting dresses, otherwise known as wiggle dresses and pencil dresses, were considered to be the perfect party frock for women; however, shapewear was essentially required in order to look stylish in fitted 1950s party dresses. These dresses were notorious for having a narrow hemline which resulted in the wiggle moniker. As you can see from the photo below, taking tiny steps when walking in a wiggle dress was a physical necessity. The intent was for the dress to mold to a woman's hourglass shape without consideration as to whether a woman had an hourglass figure. As a result, the demand for foundation garments, during that time frame was unprecedented  It was not uncommon for party dresses to also feature a back-plunge. It is believed that the introduction of the back plunge was the result of women’s desire to wear less restrictive clothing. This is ironic since the undergarments women wore were physically restrictive.

Jean Patchett in 1954 Vogue Issue, Photo Courtesy of Mote Historie

Fashion has both literally and figuratively come a long way since the 1950s; yet, many things remain the same. Today women have the option of selecting from a variety of fit and flare or fitted, metallic, graphic print and sequined dresses; not to mention fit and flare or fitted dresses in textiles such as leather and velvet. An increase in diverse options is, however, a result of advancement in the tools and technology available to fashion designers. The shape and silhouettes of party dresses in the 1950s and modern party dresses are essentially the same. The difference is in the shapewear. The shapewear in the 1950s was much more constrictive and uncomfortable than modern shapewear.

Celebrities in 1950s-Style Floral Fit and Flare Dresses; Photo Courtesy of

I would be remiss if I did not give a nod to the advancements in shapewear. It would still be challenging, without marvelous shapewear entrepreneurs, to fit into form-fitting party dresses. Let’s applaud shapewear companies such as Spanx, Bali, Maidenform and other lingerie companies.
Do you like vintage or vintage replica dresses?
I hope you enjoyed the post and that you will submit a comment.

Thanks for stopping by. Until next time, be stylish!

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  1. Ah yes, the 1950s! Talk about an era of glamour <3


  2. Love the style back then and now. Amazing dresses and stunning jewelry to amaze anyone!!

  3. Love those dresses, so perfect <3

  4. Love this post and the history behind the glamour of the 50's. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and leaving a lovely comment, so that I can find you! I'll follow for more :)

  5. Love the 50's glam dresses, big fan of them, lovely selection here !
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  6. Sharon,
    Great post! I love 50's style and that Lucy Lui dress is one of my faves!
    Also thanks for checking out and commenting on my posts!

  7. I love this style! I think we should all have dresses like this!

  8. I love the red tulle dress!

  9. The 1950s is probably the most universally flattering decade. It emphasized a smaller waist by having a full skirt and that just looks good on everyone. I have mixed feelings about modern interpretations or boutiques that sell "vintage" inspired pieces because they not made with the best quality and sometimes they're made with really cheap fabric. Back then, everything was made with such quality it's kind of hard to compare now. However, people back then were differently built than people now so it's nice to have some sort of 50s inspiration going on.

    Thanks for visiting my blog!


  10. Love this post! nice dresses. regards. Andrea

  11. I follow you! Have a nice day!

  12. I love this post! Beautiful! <3 Emily

  13. great post love love love the 1950's golden actresses and classic movies!
    great blog

  14. Love that kind of dresses, so elegant and feminine :)
    Great post ;)

  15. LOVED your blog Sharon!! Really interesting, I enjoyed the reading!

  16. I love the vintage frocks! Oh, how often I wish that today's clothing was made with this level of integrity and that folks dressed up more!

  17. Oh I just love fit and flare dresses! You can't beat it for an all round flattering shape! Every now and then I squeeze into a wiggle dress though!

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