Some styles never go out of fashion… they just wax and wane over time. The wiggle dress falls into that category. Most popular in the 50s and 60s (think of Joan Harris nee Holloway on AMC’s Mad Men), wiggle dresses never really went out of style. Today, they are especially popular among the vintage wearing crowd and in the Rockabilly scene.

Not among the initiated and wondering what a wiggle dress is? Don’t worry, we will bring up to speed and maybe even make you a wiggle dress convert.

First, the definition.

A wiggle dress is very simply an exaggerated form-fitting sheath dress with a hemline that tapers from the hips to the hemline, which can fall to the knee or just below the knee. And a sheath dress, for those who don’t know, is just a form-fitting dress with a defined waist. Both the sheath and the extreme form, the wiggle, highlight the classic hourglass silhouette. Even though the silhouette of the wiggle dress is simple, there’s really nothing simple about it.

It was very intentionally designed to accentuate the curves and “the wiggle” of a woman’s shape and her walk with its a body-hugging design and a tapered hem. The wiggle dress can also feature slits or kick-pleats and can even flare out after it narrows.

When shopping for a wiggle dress the key is to make sure that the hem tapers. If it doesn’t taper, it’s just a sheath dress, and while sheath dresses are pretty if you are going for that Va-Va-Voom effect of a wiggle dress, you aren’t going to get it.

Let me put it into preservative for you-Peggy from Mad Men would wear a sheath dress, while Joanie would wear a wiggle dress!


Wiggle Dresses Vintage Mad Men

Here are some vintage versions of the wiggle dress you can add to your wardrobe.

Bombshell Gold and Silver Lurex Plunging Halter Wiggle Dress from StutterninMamas on Etsy

Vintage 40s Wiggle Dress  from House of Renata on Etsy

Vintage 1950s-Style Brown Floral Fitted Wiggle Dress from Magia Vintage on Etsy

Wiggle Inspiration

Need some wiggle dress inspiration? How about from some of the most famous wiggle dress wearers, like Joan from Mad Men, Marilyn Monroe and Bettie Page?. Photo credit – Secret Stoves

Marilyn Monroe in a wiggle dress pictured with husband and playwright Arthur Miller

Like the wiggle dress style, but prefer a more updated look? Here are some modern vintage-inspired versions for sale.

Sleeveless Colored Katy Wiggle Dress from Heat My Closet on Etsy

Bleached Skeleton Wiggle Dress from smarmyclothes on Etsy

Plus-Size Leopard Wiggle Dress from Kiyonna   

DIY Dress Tips

Finally, are you the crafty type? Here are some diy wiggle dress tips and tutorials you can try out.

  1. Wiggle Dress Options from Sew Country Chick
  2. The Hips Don’t Lie Dress from The Sew Weekly
  3. Gussets On Parade! The Finished Wiggle Dress from Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing
  4. How to Make a Pencil Skirt (cousin to the wiggle dress) from What the Craft?
  5. How to Sew a Wiggle Dress from eHow
  6. Grading a Wiggle Skirt from Malmikon Palmikot
  7. Love Me a Wiggle Dress from Cirque Du Bebe