Woman wearing a blue, retro, vintage wiggle dress

History has proven this time and again that different eras have had their own favorites, be it in terms of the cut, fabric or shape.

At some point in fashion history, almost everybody type has been an ideal.

So why not embrace the era that embraced you?

In today’s day and age, when all kinds of fashion are accessible to us, why not then, use it to our full advantage and get hold of something that flatters our body type the most?

And as far as flattering is concerned, the bestseller over the years on the vintage fashion menu has always been the wiggle dress.

What is a Wiggle dress?

It can be described as a dress whose hem is narrower than the hips.

This causes the wearer to walk in short strides with legs close together, producing a sway or wiggle of the hips.

This term, as well as the basic design of the dress, has evolved from the classic 50s dresses.

This includes the sheath dress or the pencil dress which in turn were the successors of the Hobble skirt of the early 1900’s.

The key factor in all these types of designs was that they were essentially bodycon.

They followed the basic anatomy and bodily curves of the wearer.

Sheath skirts had a straighter fit, while the pencil skirts were much tighter around the hips and quite difficult to walk in.

This gave birth to the term “wiggle dress”, as we know it today.

What Does Wiggle dress Mean?

Woman wearing a cream or off-white wiggle dressThis silhouette of the wiggle encouraged women to walk with a wiggle – shuffling their heeled feet in small movements, and the term was born!

Sheath skirts started at a waistband at the natural waist and curved tightly over the hips and then tapered down the legs just below the knee or a bit longer.

The straighter the fit, the better, was the fad, for the most part of the early ’50s.

However, the latter part of the decade favored a rounder, fuller fit at the hip.

What was hidden in full skirts, was revealed in these curve-hugging pencil skirts?

These made a woman wiggle her walk and hence the common name used now.   

Which Era is The Wiggle Dress From?

Although the basic design principle on which this dress was made dates back to 1910 when the highly atrocious “hobble skirt” was introduced, the wiggle dress or the pencil dress as we know and use it today was most popular and loved in the Golden era of Marilyn Monroe – the Fabulous Fifties!

There were two main designs or dress patterns in 50s fashion – the wasp waist with full skirt and the slim fitting pencil skirt.

Both were extremely popular and couldn’t have been more opposite to each other in the basic purpose that they served!

What was hidden in the full skirt was revealed in the pencil skirt.

The full skirt was popular because the fullness hid big hips and made waists look smaller.

So, it was ever so flattering.

The pencil dress was in fashion because it hugged a woman’s natural curves and revealed a full figure making the wearer feel more feminine.

And so it was flattering as well!

When Were Wiggle Dresses Popular?

It can safely be said that the 1950’s-60’s were the most favored time for this dress design.

It became a sexy staple for most of the A-list celebrities of that time.

Be it the notorious pin-up Betty Page, or the screen goddess Ava Gardener or even the very lady like Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn, everyone had the Pencil Fever.

Marilyn Monroe could safely be called “the pin-up wiggle dress” girl!.

The blonde bombshell loved to wear these so much that the sexy “wiggle” walk became synonymous with Marilyn!

She kept her look chic yet sassy and paired her classy pencil skirts with button down shirts or soft sweaters and high pointed heels.

While Monroe used the skirt to project her sexual confidence, others such as Kelly and Gardner, preferred to keep the look more posh and graceful.

So, they paired the skirt with flat wedged heels and elegant silk blouses.

What is The Difference Between a Wiggle and Pencil dress?

The difference is almost next to none.

But if you must find one, then let’s put it this way:

All wiggle dresses are basically pencil dresses, but all pencil dresses need not be wiggle dresses.

They both follow the same design principle: they are narrower at the hem than at the waist

Pencil Dress

Pencil dresses, also known as sheath dresses basically curve lightly over the hips and then taper down the legs, just below the knee or longer.

They basically have a straight fit.

The straighter the fit the better.

There is a bit more ease in walking as the hemline isn’t too narrow and can further be eased out with a slit at the back.

Wiggle Dress

But if you tighten this same design over the hips and narrow down the hemline to the point that walking becomes difficult and has to be done in short strides, it becomes a wiggle dress!

Also, this term is being used more commonly in current fashion times, than say sheath dress or pencil dress, to describe this kind of a dress design.

How to Wear a Wiggle Dress With Confidence?Woman wearing a blue, sleeveless wiggle dress

This dress design is so flattering by itself that just by wearing it half your work is done.

However, as with any other fashion trend, you should have certain rules in mind, to gain that extra bit of confidence while wearing your favorite dress.

Is The Size Right?

If the fit is too tight, the dress will end up looking vulgar.

Especially for those of us who don’t have the perfect figures, a tight wiggle dress is an absolute no-no.

Not unless you want the more unflattering parts, such as your love handles or the slight tummy bulge to show.

If the fit is too loose, this dress will lose its basic purpose – to enhance your feminine form and more importantly to get that sexy wiggle into play!

Find the Right Accessories

This is an important point to be kept in mind while wearing vintage dress designs.

To be able to keep a hint of that era alive while bringing in your own personalized touch to the look, you have to have the right styling in place.

Be it the makeup, the hair, the undergarments, the shoes, belts or the bag.

If done right, it will add oodles of confidence to your overall look

Don’t Overdo It

The thing with Vintage fashion is that if you overdo it, you are at a risk of cartooning it instead of dramatizing it.

The dress in itself is so sexy that there is no need for any extra show of flesh, mostly in terms of cleavage.

Also, the accessories, although extremely important should be minimal and appropriate to the occasion.

Only then can you gain the right confidence while wearing it.

How to Style a Wiggle Dress

Woman wearing a blue, sleeveless wiggle dressThis totally depends on which way you want the final look to go.

Its already a pretty sexy and sassy design, but if you still want to up the glam quotient a bit, then why not “Marilyn” it up a bit with a pair of flirty heels?

Simple pumps in bright contrasting colors also look great with this look.

If you wanna go completely retro, then styling this dress with a red lipstick and a cliche 50’s hairdo along with wrist length gloves and maybe a polka dotted dress pattern or a floral wiggle dress will do the trick.

For a Modern Look

For adding a more modern touch to the outfit, try to go in for bold or block colors and unexpected patterns.

You can style this with minimal jewelry and a sleek belt in a contrasting color along with a colorful and detailed rich handbag.

This dress is so versatile that you can wear it from your office to a cocktail party, just depending on the fabric, tightness, and styling.

How to Accessorize this Dress

Accessorizing a vintage design such as this totally depends on how you want to end up looking.

Wear the Right Shoes

Let’s start with footwear.

This is a highly important accessory when wearing a wiggle dress.

You basically want the line of your leg to be long and svelte to contrast with the curves the dress creates.

So heels are a must.

These could range from simple pumps to pointed heels, although the latter definitely looks better than any other kind of footwear.

Clunky heels or ankle boots should be avoided as much as possible.

Flats could work if you are quite tall.

Accessorize with Makeup

Next, let’s come to the makeup.

Keep it minimal if you are aiming for a more modern look with this dress.

But if you wanna end up looking like a “pin-up wiggle dress” girl, then the iconic red lipstick of the ’50s is a must with a dramatic updo for your hair.

Wear a Hat

To keep the feel more retro, don’t be afraid to try small lampshade style or pill box shaped hats ( you can go the extra mile with a veil!) or even different scarves in bold colors which can be tied in your hair or around your neck.

Wrist length gloves with bracelets can also round up your overall dramatic 50’s look!

Simple thin or wide belts in block colors, to emphasize a tiny waist are also a must-have accessory to finish off your final look.

What Shoes to Wear With A Wiggle Dress

Nothing can throw off your outfit’s groove like the wrong pair of shoes!

It’s important to repeat here that heels go best with the 50’s dress design.

This is because you don’t want to cut the line of your legs with clunky footwear and end up looking stumpy!

So, stay clear of ankle length boots and klutzy footwear.

Feminine Style Shoes

Stilettos and pumps are your go-to footwear as far as this dress is concerned.

A vibrant colored pair of classic Mary Janes has just enough of a heel to elongate those legs.

A pair of silky suede pumps are perfect for below-the-knee styles of the ’40s and 50’s .T-straps are an elegant, feminine style that has plenty of timeless appeal.

Classic Style Shoes

Classic style leather pumps and fringe oxford pumps also look smashing with tailored 50’s style dresses.

If you are very tall, then a beautiful pair of flats can work, as well, as long as they are pointed and long.

Basic rule: The pair of footwear that you choose should elongate your legs and make them look slender and graceful in contrast to the curves that the dress creates.

What to Wear Under a Wiggle Dress

Woman wearing a red wiggle dressFoundation garments can be deemed as the essential building blocks to the perfect look with any vintage dress design.

Wiggle dresses and sheath dresses often share a similar, body-skimming silhouette.

To achieve a flawless foundation beneath these close-fitting dresses, you have to choose vintage-inspired, shapewear which includes paneling, that hugs you in all the right places, ensuring that your dress falls just as it should.

The Bullet Bra

In the 1940s, 50s and early 60s, a pointier bust was the fashion.

A bra that comes to a gentle point while drawing in the sides of the breasts helps to lift the bust higher and shows off the waist more.

A perky bra looks amazing under a fitted sweater or dress.

These days the preferred bust silhouette for most women is very round so most women might feel uncomfortable wearing this kind of an exaggerated shaped authentic 1950’s bra, but it can be very comfortable and wearable.

When pairing a bra with a bodycon dress, try to find a seamless bra to avoid any unsightly lines under the dress.


Shapewear helps to slim the parts of the body that it covers, and can be used to hide cellulite.

Full body shapers fit from the bust to the thighs.

Waist cinchers are available which flatten the stomach and give additional definition to the waist.

Thigh and stomach shapers slim the thighs, buttocks, and stomach, without creating visible panty lines.

Control knickers shape the stomach and buttocks to create a flatter tummy and a perkier bottom.

A small svelte waist was the preferred norm of that era.

This look can be achieved by high powered undergarments like girdles and corsets.

Although a girdle smoothens the hips and thighs, it doesn’t do much to enhance the waist.

In fact, it can create unsightly muffins on top, which make the waist look bigger than it actually is.

However, this issue can be solved by going in for an open bottom girdle which can go right up to the under-bust area which provides extra coverage and firm shaping.


Corsets, on the other hand, solve the issues with the girdle creating a muffin at the top and gives a gorgeous hourglass shape.

The higher, the better.

High waisted “granny panties” were a thing of those times.

Women young and old wore underwear that came all the way up to their waist.

A high waist offers a smoother line under close- fitted dresses and trousers and can help to gently flatten the stomach.

So shaping shorts are not just comfortable, they are a highly useful shapewear when wearing body fitting vintage dresses.

The right foundation garments are essential to your vintage wardrobe, they can make all difference in how a wiggle dress looks!

What Jacket to Wear With a Wiggle Dress

Jackets and cardigans can be worn to accessorize this dress design for a variety of settings.

A bolero jacket works well for both casual and formal outfits. As the bottom of the jacket falls above the hips, it defines the waist and shifts the focus onto the bust.

For formal evening wear, a light, cashmere cardigan, or shawl can be worn across the shoulders.

If the dress is being worn for casual daywear, a long knitted cardigan, the length of the dress can be worn, to create a simple look.

Working women, who can team it up with a clean cut classic blazer or a tailored jacket to get a somber and refined look.

Are Wiggle Dresses Flattering on the Figure and Why?

Woman wearing a cream or off-white wiggle dress and flicking her hair

Yes, these dresses are immensely flattering to all kinds of body types.

If you have all the right proportions of the bust, hips and a tiny waist, it’s perfect, but really this dress design flatters most female forms.

The main thing you need to pull it off is confidence.

The reason for this is that this dress design enhances the female form.

It adapts to the bodily curves to bring out the most feminine features of the wearer, in a sassy yet graceful way.

It has the ability to be vintage and modern at the same time and also uplifts the confidence of the one wearing it.

If you wear it in the right way, it has the ability to balance out the proportions for all body types beautifully.

What is the Best Body Shape to Wear a Wiggle Dress

It has the ability to flatter all kinds of body types but it works best for women with an hourglass, rectangular, apple/heart shaped body shapes and women with petite figures.

Hourglass Body Shape

Hourglass figures are the most desired body shapes as only 8% of the world have them!

The hourglass body was greatly celebrated in the 1950s due to the hips and bust being the same measurements with a teeny waist, almost 9 inches smaller.

Hourglass ladies are made for the 1950s style dresses!

Cinched waists, fitted cardigans, pencil skirts and wiggle dresses make an hourglass figure look its best.

Rectangular Body shape

Do you wear the same size on your top and bottom? Have a smaller bust and hips, but with little waist definition? Is your bottom enviably flat?

If you can answer yes to most of those questions, you might be a rectangle shape.

The rectangle body shape doesn’t need to focus on balancing the torso or bottom with hourglass-cut dresses.

Because the rectangle is more of a “straight up and down” shape, the goal is to create the illusion of curves by emphasizing what you’ve already got.

The pencil dress/wiggle dress silhouette helps you achieve this.

However, there are certain details like ruching, horizontal stripes and wide and narrow necklines, such as those found in the Bardot wiggle dress, that you should look out for.

Apple shaped/Heart shaped Body Types

The heart-shaped body is widest at the bust and shoulders while the hips and thighs are more narrow.

If you are an apple, you may also describe yourself as “top heavy”.

You have a bust larger than your hips by 6cm or more.

You may carry weight around your midsection, and have narrow hips and long legs.

As apples have a fuller midsection, it is best to try and pull the attention away and create a unity with the rest of the body.

Such body types often look great in form-fitting pencil dresses because they emphasize the hips.

This will help create a flattering balance between your hips and torso.

A colorful belt to highlight your waist always helps.

Petite Body Types

Your bones and overall frame are smaller and more delicate, typically 5’4″ and below.

Form-fitting dresses help you keep your shape by defining it.

Who Can Wear a Wiggle Dress?

Vintage wear is a style category that has no boundaries but the style characteristics of vintage wear do in fact have a lot of boundaries!

Back in the 1950’s teens were encouraged to stay clear of the sheath skirt– they were too sexy for youngsters.

The full circle skirt, also a rage at that time was more popular with the teens.

It hung beautifully in drapes that swung with movement and hence the term “swing dress”.

The fitted sheath or pencil dresses were meant for more mature, sophisticated women.

In today’s times, however, its a style for everyone.

It just has to be done right.

How Can Women of All Ages Wear it?

If we broadly divide the age range of women to above and below 30, it can safely be said the older women should go in for subtler colors while selecting their wiggle dresses.

Unlike the younger lot who can experiment with bold bright colors and flowery patterns.

Similarly, the accessories and hairdo should be kept minimal for the older age groups.

They can go in for simple pearl ear studs and avoid the dramatic hair updos of that era.

Simple jackets would do wonders for a graceful look for women in this category.

They should avoid the more “sultry” styles that the dress designs can offer.

The younger women can style their look accessories such as sleek contrasting belts and sometimes even loud makeup and hairstyles.

They can get away with it!

How to Wear Vintage Clothes and Look Modern?Woman wearing a pink retro, vintage wiggle dress

A common risk with Vintage style clothing is that you can overdo it.

It is very easy to get carried away and start looking like you area character right out of a movie!

Here’s how you can avoid that:

Choose Clothing that Match Current Fashion Trends

Most contemporary fashion is inspired by styles in the past, so it won’t be too difficult to get hold of something that replicates an older style.

Finding and wearing one such garment is an easy way of avoiding an over the top look.


Keep it Simple and begin by working on the accessories

That’s the safest bet.

A vintage belt or a piece of jewelry paired with a modern fashion trend will be an ideal balance for the look.

Keep Your Makeup and Hair Minimal

Keeping your makeup subtle and your hair done in a simple fashion will tone down the vintage feel a great deal.

The accessories also should be kept minimal when done with a vintage outfit in order to cut out the drama from the look.

Mix and Match

Mix and match your pieces from two different eras, one era preferably being the current one.

This also helps you to dress around one statement vintage piece which can be the focus of your outfit.

For example, you can wear a white Edwardian blouse with a zip-up sweatshirt and torn up jeans and you would be rocking the vintage look and still be looking modern as hell!

How to Dress Vintage Every day?

Frankly, if you decide to wear Vintage every day, it is a major lifestyle choice that you are going to be making.

Style It Right

That’s the key.

If you have to wear it every day, then go easy on the makeup and accessories.

You don’t wanna end up being the butt of jokes everywhere and every day.

Keep it minimal. The clothes might be from a different era but let them speak of who you are.

Find the Perfect Fit

It is important to know there is a huge difference between the sizes of the bygone era and today’s sizes.

So, try and get hold of the perfect size for the perfect look by keeping your bust, waist and hip measurements handy when you go shopping.

Mix and Match

Don’t be afraid to throw in a current fashion trend when you dress.

It will only enhance the beauty of the vintage piece that you are wearing.

Don’t underestimate the clothing you already have in your closet.

You can integrate and combine owned items in many ways you didn’t think possible.

Be Confident

People will stare. Let them. It’s you who has decided to go down this road and you will stick to it.

How to Dress Classic Vintage Chic

The answer lies in your ability to have an in-depth knowledge about the era you want to dress in and being able to maintain a balance between the new and old.

Know your Fabric

Wear items that are made with classic fabrics like cotton, linen, tweed, silk, wool, and linen. These have an unmatched elegance and can hardly go wrong.

Stick to neutral colors like black, white, cream, navy blue, emerald green, and grey.

Get the Fit Right

In order to get the classy, chic and sophisticated vintage look, your outfit has to be tailored to perfection.

It should enhance your body form and not make you look sloppy in any way.

Accessorize it Right

This is one of the most important aspects of getting vintage dressing right.

Vintage dressing is synonymous with modesty.

So jewelry should include simple earrings like faux pearl or Swarovski studs and cameos, cuff bangles and cha-cha bracelets and Whimsical and flirty pins, cameo brooches, personalized brooches, and gem-set pins.

Shoes should also have the classic vintage feel and should include delicate Mary Janes and oxford pumps.

Signature retro handbags and purses such as beaded flapper purses also add immensely to the chic look.

Other accessories such as 50’s and 60’s inspired sunglasses and hats and scarves inspire a neat, clean and minimalistic look which is classy, elegant and timeless.

How to Dress Vintage Without Looking Old

All the basic principles remain the same.

Keep it simple and classy.

Try and focus on one vintage piece as far as possible and accessorize around it.

Keep the makeup and styling minimal. Mix and match with pieces seen in current fashion trends, that are “in”, get a perfect fit and finally give it a modern twist!

How to look Vintage with Normal clothes

Vintage clothing, although there is no firm definition, is generally acknowledged as any clothing or accessory that was made in the 1980s or earlier.

Therefore, there is a huge selection of clothes to choose from in the ‘vintage’ category. And there are certain ground rules to follow when you wear them with normal clothes.

Choose Items From a Variety of Eras

This will help you to avoid a costumey look that is easy to get into if you choose your entire outfit from one particular era.

So try mixing your wardrobe from a variety of clothing periods.

Mix and Match Vintage with Modern

An easy way to think about it is: if you’re wearing a vintage top, throw on a pair of skinny jeans or modern pants. Vintage bottoms?

Add a current shirt or sweater to balance the look. Dresses can be made more modern with the addition of modern accessories and hairstyles

Vintage shirts from nearly any era are the easiest way to step into the world of wearing vintage.

Shirts and sweaters are relatively low-maintenance, and pair with any modern bottoms.

Vintage skirts in any neutral tone (black, gray, brown, tan, and olive) are a great addition to your wardrobe.

These can be paired with a modern looking top which can complete the look.

Try pairing vintage pants with a t-shirt that is currently in fashion. You can also try tucking a lacy top or screen-printed tank for a more “in” look.

Vintage dresses can be worn with minimal or toned down makeup and accessories or vice versa.

Vintage accessories such as hats, belts, jewelry, shoes, and handbags can be paired with a normal pair of jeans and a top.

How To Wear Vintage to Work in 2018

Wearing vintage to the office is not an issue so long as you don’t adopt the entire vibe of the era.

Let’s take the vintage pantsuit for example.

If you wear a vintage suit with vintage-inspired shoes, more neutral makeup, with a modern bag and simple hair, you would definitely be the office attraction.

On the contrary, you could wear a more modern suit with vintage shoes, or go for a pin curl look with Benetton.

Either way, subtle elegance is the key cause that’s what vintage is all about.

Stick To Neutral Colors

Try and stick closer to neutral, basic colors and avoid garish ones.

Things to avoid would be any suit featuring serious shoulder pads, stripes going in different directions, or anything requiring a corset to fit into.

Vintage-inspired shoes and a bag to go with it would complete a very chic vintage look to work.

If pantsuits are not your thing, then there is always the midi pencil dress which can never let you down.

Mix it With Modern Styles

When paired with a clean-cut blazer or a fitted cardigan, it can spell modern vintage and office chic like no other.

However, like always you have to remember to go easy on the vintage makeup and accessories while in office.

In fact, some modern makeup and hairstyles like neatly backcombed hair or a low messy bun with small pearl studs worn with a vintage dress would make you stand out all the more.

Where are the Best Places to Buy Wiggle Dresses Online

Vintage inspired dresses and retro style clothing are as freely and as abundantly available online as any other product.

From Amazon to eBay to a host of other websites are selling these vintage-inspired pieces of clothing and accessories online.

But you have to be careful as most of these online sellers are not aware of the actual vintage styling and misuse the terms such as wiggle dresses and pencil skirts freely.

So before buying any piece of clothing online, you should definitely have your measurements handy, to be able to get the right vintage dress.

Vintage dressing has a timeless appeal.

If done right, it can boost your confidence and up your style quotient like no other.