Top Vintage Dress Styles

polka dot dresses

Looking for dress inspiration in the past? You’re in luck – there are several styles that harken to an older era, but can bring you firmly to the present when paired with modern accessories and/or hair and makeup. Check out some of the most popular frock fashions of yesteryear and figure out what might be your next everyday dress or show-stopping eveningwear.


Drop Waist Dresses of the 1920s                                                                   


Drop waist style dresses were the defining fashion of the twenties. A clear rejection of the corset and with it, female social norms, the first half of the decade saw a focus on a simpler drop waist version and the latter became well known for a flapper-style fringe type. Both conjured in the wearer a boyish appearance. Dress length was generally at calf length, but as the period progressed, hemlines were raised to – at times – show a bit of knee. If you’d like to try this look today, take some inspiration from the pleats, fringe and slits that became in vogue and pair your piece with a closed-toe strappy heel to complete the look.


Simple, Well-Constructed Styles from the 1940s


The trend in dresses that became popular during the 1940s is a direct reflection of the wartime that women were living in. Before this period, American style was heavily influenced by styles from abroad, but the war made this difficult so stateside designers grew in notoriety and influence. Garments were slim and sleek, hemlines generally came to just beneath the knee, and frocks were designed to allow for easy maneuverability on the dance floor. In addition, due to the fact that materials had to be rationed, styles were unembellished and plainer than pieces that came before.


From the 1950s:

Sheath Dresses


The bodice of the sheath dress was fitted, tailored and cinched at the waist, and the bottom fit closely to the body, giving a straight, sexy and slim look. The top was generally either sleeveless or included short sleeves/those of elbow length. Skirts on these were of the shape often called pencil skirts today and usually included a kick-pleat or vent in the back to facilitate movement. Paired with a high heel, sheath dresses are an easy way of emphasizing your curves and sporting a sophisticated look at the same time.


Dior’s New Look


This dress is one of the most well known of this era, particularly during the first half of the decade. With a fitted bodice and a full skirt that ballooned out at the natural waistline, the variations were endless and allow for a plethora of options for the modern gal looking to sport a vintage look. You can find these designs with a number of necklines including V-neck, square-neck, scooped, boat-neck or sweetheart.


Shirt Waist


Another common and popular dress style of this era was the shirtwaist dress. These featured fitted button-down tops, similar to a blouse, which ended at the woman’s waist. You could find cap sleeves, short or elbow length, as well as full long sleeved versions. Popular with housewives because they were simple to don, clean and move around in, they were often printed in gingham or cotton percale. For a more formal look, you can find shirtdress styles in taffeta, silk, and rayon that would be completely suitable at any evening event.