This past weekend I went to a Big Band Lindy Hop dance right here in Toronto and I decided to wear my favorite 1940s reproduction Shirtwaist Dress by Trashy Diva in honour of the evening. This dress gets so many compliments every time I wear it and people are surprised when I tell them it’s a dress not a shirt. Hence why it’s called a “Shirtwaist Dress”.
My other Shirtwaist dress from Trashy Diva.
The shirtwaist dress is not just a 1940s style, in fact the 1950’s is really where it found its popularity and it’s place in fashion history.
History of the Shirtwaist Dress
The 1940s shirtwaist got its name from how it combined a blouse top and a skirt bottom into one dress and had as its basis the wartime, utilitarian appeal.
The shirtwaist skirt was always an A line cut, flared just enough to be loose over the hips and wide enough for easy walking. It was also light on fabric quantity which met the rationing restrictions during the war years. As rationing lifted more gathers were added to skirts for even more fullness. Long knife pleats were also in style and added to the straight military inspired look of the 40s. The long pleating also slimmed down the A-line skirt into a rectangle tube which was a trendy shape going into the late 40’s (Source-Vintage Dancer).
The dress was considered a useful ensemble for most daily activities, evening-wear, and even participating in sporting events.
In the late 1940’s Christian Dior popularized this style with his “New Look” collection in the famous fashion year of 1947. Dior focused on the “nipped-in” waist and a full (often very) full skirt. The iconic “Shirtwaist Silhouette” is born (and can be seen in almost every decade after this).
For my post I’m going to show you the 2 styles of dresses from the two most popular era’s, 1940s and 1950s.
Simple design, but still so beautiful.
Wonderful flared skirt with front pleats. Great hair flower inspiration as well in this pattern.
See the ladies during the 1940’s may not have had the ability to wear extravagant gowns but they did know that it was all about the accessories to take that outfit to the next level. These hats are perfect examples of that!
While not 100% exact the dress below looks very similar to the pattern above.
The Side pocket in this dress is something I look for when I buy dresses. I love a one pocket dress. Don’t know why..I just do.
I do love green but I did not think I would love this green at first sight due to it being slightly neon like. But I think the breast pocket detail makes this green very wearable. Isn’t it marvelous?
I will now leave the 1940s but not before posting an unbelievably stunning Shirtwaist Dress. This by far has been my favorite of all the images I have seen while working on this post of dresses you can buy right now.
Love the embroidered detailing on the upper bodice.
Now lets venture into the 1950’s where you will see a very drastic change in the silhouette compared to what I was just showing you from the 1940s (thanks Christian Dior!).
1950’s Shirtwaist Dresses
See what did I tell you?! Nothing like what we were seeing above. Not even close. Aren’t these simply gorgeous (especially that green one)?
The below style is EXACTLY what I think of when I think 1950s Shirtwaist Dress.
Below is a real life similar version to the pattern above. Such warm colours.
Add some red accessories to this outfit and your ready for a night out on the town.
All you need is a fantastic pattern to add spice to a simple style.
Spring yet? The Apples and flowers on this dress sure do make me wish spring was here.
And lastly I will leave you with this 1950’s L’Aiglon diamond print shirtwaist dress as another wonderful example of this style during the 50s.
So out of the examples I showed here, did you have a favorite? Or maybe you own your own shirtwaist dress that is your favorite. Do tell friends.