What’s a Wiggle Dress? Know Your Vintage Style

by Bonnie in , , , 2 Comments — Updated November 3, 2021

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

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Source: persephonemagazine.com

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?

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Source: blue17.co.uk

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

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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. If you’re after a professional stylist, be sure to try Booksy.

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! 


2 thoughts on “What’s a Wiggle Dress? Know Your Vintage Style”

  1. I have a coat with fur around the collar, straight it reminds me Jacklin Kennedy, the label is white, all it says is Union Made. could you tell me anything about it?

  2. I love all things fashion from the mid-century as well! Especially the 40s & 50s. I’d recently seen the term “wiggle dress” and naturally wanted to learn more about it, so was great to come across your article. Thank you! 😊


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