Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The Trouble with 1950s Dresses

It's been nine days since the Chiswick Vintage Wedding Fair, and I still am answering your queries and requests my dear friends. Keep them coming. I'm not complaining.

Image Alex Drake Vintage

First off, thanks to all who came to my stall for a chat, tried my tiny lace American 1950s dresses on, and told me about your upcoming weddings. As you all know by now, I'm a hopeless romantic and it's great to share common interest with you ladies, - vintage and happy fairy-tale endings are the stuff of life, methinks.

Here are the most prominent questions you asked me:

❤ Why 1950s dresses wont fit me
The average measurements of women in the 1950s USA  were: 36 bust , 24 waist , 35 hips. Unfortunately, most of my dresses at the fair were made in the USA.

Image from Listal.com, Marilyn's waist fluctuated from 22-24 inches

❤ Why were women so small in the 1950s
Girdles and corselettes were worn to achieve the most glamorous look of all - the hourglass figure. Women's busts and hips were accentuated and waists were pushed in.

In the 1950s, the sudden need to enjoy affluence – following years of austerity during and after World War 2 – manifested in several ways, including an improvement in ladies' wardrobes. This was mainly because of the possibilities opened up by new textiles and manufacturing techniques. Women began to indulge in the ultimate "me-time" – pleasurable hours spent applying make-up and doing their hair, then dressing up in layers - foundation garments (such as girdles, corselettes, suspender belts), petticoats, a main dress and perhaps a coat, then shoes.

Image from Jumpingfrog.com

❤ I desperately want a 1950s dress. Where can I get one?
If your patience has ran out after trawling the Internet, flea markets, thrift shops to no avail:
1. Get patterns and find a good seamstress. You'll be guaranteed a perfect fit. For a touch of authenticity, try and find an original 1950s fabric.
2. Use your styling skills and mix and match a top with a 1950s skirt, etc, etc. Nowadays, anything is possible.

Image from Sensibility.com

I hope this helps.

Finally, thanks to Tinkerbelles for the lovely mention of my stall.

I leave you with this wonderful stop motion animation from the creators of Tinkerbelles who also run Manasi Kashyap Photography.

Ciao! Ciao!

Music by A Fine Frenzy (I love Alison!!)



  1. Love the post! Thank you for including my little film :)

  2. first of all, i love this post SIMPLE BECAUSE it is SOOOOO VINTAGE!!! And i love the writing, I wish we could still dress like those days with corsets and pointy bras! :) it would be just a dream come true for me!

  3. Thanks Donna! Glad you like.
    Have a good week hon :)
    J x

  4. I am so charmed. Yes, the waists of those '50's dresses are so tiny. Girdles, not spanx, days. Hardcore. Of course the portions of food served today has become gigantic and waistlines followed. 32 ounce drinks, really?


  5. Ha!ha! Thanks for your thoughts and for stopping by. I occasionally have 'Mc attacks' like most people do.
    Have a good one :)
    Joy x

  6. I really liked this post! Thanks for the information. My mom had the most beautiful dress from the 50s that she wore when she was homecoming queen. It was pink with sequined butterflies and just gorgeous. I loved it so much but could NEVER fit into it. She was like a Barbie with a tiny waist and a huge chest.

  7. I have awarded you a lovely blog award :). Please check my blog for details.

    I did a speech on fashion from the 50's, 60's and 70's not long ago. It was interesting looking back and seeing how so many styles have repeated themselves. I love the examples you chose! Very nice.


  8. Thanks for the award Shannon!
    Your speech sounded like great fun.
    Yes, I guess we'll be seeing a lot of revivals at the moment :)
    Joy x

  9. @Taimi Thanks for reading my post. Your Mom must have been awesome being a homecoming queen! These days a lot of vintage purists (ladies) wear foundation garments on a daily basis. I like to breathe properly and I guess I'm just a wimp :)
    Joy x

  10. Gorgeous frocks Joy, hope you found some teeny weeny vintage brides who were able to wear them. I don't think I could wear those girdles etc , at my own wedding it was a bit of a shock to discover I couldn't eat anything due to the tightness of my boned corset. My advice to all trying on wedding dresses would be - can you sit down in it?!

  11. Thanks for that piece of advice, Lakota.
    Highly important that your waist is not about to do a 'release the rip cord' episode when you're trying to sit down :)

    Joy x

  12. Great dresses. Too small for me!!
    Thanks for a very informative post. You really know your vintage stuff!


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