Buy Wiggle Dresses Online; Choose a Wiggle Pencil Dress for Vintage Inspired Style

by HollieT

What is it about vintage wiggle dresses which still inspires the designers of today? And why do so many women want to buy and own vintage wiggle dresses?

The rock n roll years of the 1950's brought many things; DA haircuts, classic crooners such as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, legendary femme fatales such as Grace Kelly, and of course, that dress, the infamous wiggle dress. More than five decades later the wiggle pencil dress remains a treasured addition to many a wardrobe, particularly within the circles of the hip and trendy vintage wearing crowd.

But what is it about the style of this particular dress which still inspires the designers of today, and what is it about the prospect of owning such a dress that sends so many women, regardless of age, shape or size, reaching for their debit cards?

What is a Wiggle Dress?

So, what is a wiggle dress? 

The term wiggle dress is often used incorrectly to describe a sheath dress, and although the differences between the two are slight, there is a difference.

Wiggle dresses became highly popular during the latter part of the 1950's, and just like the dresses of the 1940's, were form fitting and intended to accentuate a woman's curves.

The wiggle dress, just as the sheath dress before it, was very fitted across the bust, waist and hips, but the wiggle dress was somewhat more daring in that the line of the dress ensured that it was just as fitted across the thighs and legs. Many women accesorised this stylish look by adding beautiful jewelry, or wearing fascinators and other charming hair accessories.

The defining feature of the wiggle dress, however, was that the hemline was narrower than that of the hips.

The length was also important, the hemline would usually fall just beneath the knee, and sometimes to the mid calf. This meant that even if the dress contained kick pleats or a small split, the wearer's knees remained rather close together, ensuring that she wiggled as she walked, hence the term 'wiggle dress.'

Pin Up Girl Clothing, the Wiggle and Cocktail Dress.

Pin up clothing refers to the clothing worn by female celebrates after the World War 11. These women were largely considered to be sex symbols, and images of them could be found on calenders and other advertising media.

Typically, pin up clothing was very feminine and in terms of design an hour glass shape. Pin up clothing also left something to the imagination; alluring, sensual but not too revealing. The wiggle dress, therefore, is the epitome of pin up clothing. Feminine and hour glass, but not scanty.



Perhaps one of the most famous pin up girls of all time was Marilyn Monroe. Today's models of course, tend to be extremely slim with boyish figures, whereas Marilyn was curvy, and according to some reports, weighed 140 pounds at her heaviest. Marilyn was also just 5" 5 1/2 inches, so she certainly wasn't tall either.

A wiggle cocktail dress follows the same lines and is also figure forming but slightly more dressy and appropriate for evening and special occasions. The main difference is the fabrics which are used to make the dress. Often, a wiggle cocktail dress is made from satin or silk and may have a halter neck or contain some other decorative embellishments.


Marilyn Monroe wearing a wiggle dress

Marilyn Monroe famously wore wiggle dresses
Marilyn Monroe famously wore wiggle dresses
By Milton H. Greene [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Virtual Vintage: The Insider's Guide to Buying and Selling Fashion Online

Vintage clothing has never been more chic, with everyone from celebrity trendsetters to style-conscious professionals searching for wearable treasures from the past. Virtual Vin...

View on Amazon

Antique Trader Vintage Clothing Price Guide

From the 1920s flapper dresses to 1950s beaded cardigans and bell-bottom jeans of the '70s, vintage clothing is helping to define today's fashions. This book covers pricing and ...

View on Amazon

What's the difference Between a Wiggle Dress and a Wiggle Pencil Dress?

So, what's the difference between a wiggle dress and a wiggle pencil dress?

In terms of shape and lines, there isn't one. However, the term pencil is used to describe the shape of a skirt, which just like the wiggle dress is figure hugging with a hem that is narrower than the hips. 

Some wiggle dresses were designed to give the impression of two pieces; a pencil skirt and a blouse, when in fact the garment was just one piece. Hence the term wiggle pencil dress.

So, Who can wear a wiggle dress?

The short answer to that question is everyone. Back in the fifties women wore girdles to hide any bulges and pull in the waist. Thankfully, women of today do not subject themselves to that kind of torture, but there are a range of body shapers available which can flatten the stomach, narrow the waist and even augment the size of ones bottom. Amazing!

Wiggle dresses might be figure forming, but the various designs can be worn to flatter a range of body shapes and sizes. For example, the wrap over type wiggle dress can accentuate curves, but because of some of the gathering at the front it can also hide small bulges around the stomach area. 

Women with a large waist can wear high waisted wiggle dresses to raise the waistline to a narrower spot, such as that beneath the bust, giving the appearance of a smaller waist.  

The wiggle dress accentuates any curves that a woman may have, so those with a boyish figure will find that the cut of the dress exaggerates whatever shape they may have, giving the impression of curves.

Women with an hour glass shape will find that the wiggle dress enhances their small waist, and is just as flattering for the curvier woman than it is for those women with a boyish figure.

Because the wiggle dress is such a classic design and isn't too revealing, it can be worn by a women of all ages. The wiggle dress is truly a dress for any woman, any shape, any size and any age.

The Wiggle Dress Emerges, Again!

The hit TV series "Mad Men" has certainly put the spotlight back on to the wiggle dress. The character Joan Harris, as played by Christina Hendricks, is renowned for wearing this ever so sexy  dress.

This has certainly inspired today's designers. More and more wiggle dresses are finding their way onto the high street and into our wardrobes. No longer are designers producing dresses for the high street which only flatter one shape and size; skinny. 

Today's wiggle dresses are not only inspired by vintage chic, but reflect and enhance the shape of a healthy woman, as she should be, and not as portrayed by the tall, stick thin models in the glossy magazines. It's no wonder that the wiggle dress has yet again become a design favourite.

Updated: 01/26/2013, HollieT
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


Only logged-in users are allowed to comment. Login
HollieT on 12/05/2012

Ah Katie, you're lucky, I'd love to be tall. I always think tall women could wear a bin liner and still look good! :)

katiem2 on 12/05/2012

Sounds great, I'm 5'10" and thin. These types of dresses do make you look thinner. When I wear this sort of cocktail dress I look very thin. these wiggle dresses must be a super model trick. :)K

HollieT on 12/04/2012

Hi Katie,

I'm glad you enjoyed it. I really like wiggle dresses, you can be overweight and short but still feel good in one. :)

katiem2 on 12/04/2012

Very NICE! I had no idea what a wiggle dress was until now, thanks for the tutorial on wiggle dresses. :)K

HollieT on 12/03/2012

Hi Mira,

Thanks! I love the Lindy Bop dresses and they are really sexy- I also like the fact that you don't have to be stick thin to wear them. :)

Mira on 12/03/2012

Great article, Hollie! The Lindy Bop ones are incredibly sexy for some reason :))). I've seen them before but I never took a good look at them until now.

You might also like

Buy Vintage Clutch Bags: Choose a Vintage Style Clutch Online

Anyone who's serious about their vintage wardrobe knows that a vintage clutch...

British fashion history from pictures

How many of us have found old family photos and wondered who the pictures wer...

Disclosure: This page generates income for authors based on affiliate relationships with our partners, including Amazon, Google and others.
Loading ...