Retro dresses are dresses that date from about the 1940s through 1970s. Each decade of fashion had some very distinctive fashion trends. Some of the more distinctive types of retro dresses include wiggle dresses, Hawaiian print sundresses, shirt dresses, mini dresses and peasant dresses.
During and just following World War II, women began to wear dresses that were much more form fitting and daring. One popular style of dress is now referred to as the “wiggle” dress. This dress style fits very tightly through the bust, waist, and hips. The line of the dress then follows tightly along the thigh and legs, ending just below the knee. These dresses often had slits in back or front so that the wearer could walk.
Some retro dresses from the 1940s were made using Hawaiian printed fabrics. During this period, much of the world felt a great deal of solidarity with Hawaii because of the bombing at Pearl Harbor, and the popularity of these dresses may have been a result of this. These dresses were typically sundresses with fitted busts and waists.
Retro dresses from the 1950s primarily had fitted waists with full skirting. One popular style was called the “shirt” dress. The top portion of the dress style was like a button-up shirt, complete with pointed collar. The skirting was full and gathered, falling just below the knee and attached to a fitted waist. These dresses usually had narrow belts made from the same fabric as the dress.
The 1960s introduced the fashion world to the mini dress, and it is probably the most distinctive style of dress to come from that era. The overall design of these dresses varies. Some had empire waists, puffed sleeves and full skirting, and were usually referred to as “baby doll” dresses. Many others were of the A line style, which refers to a dress that is fitted at the top, then gradually widening as it falls to the hemline. The hem length for mini retro dresses was usually several inches above the knee. Dresses that barely cover the buttocks were called “micro” minis.
Retro dresses from the late 1960s and early 1970s were heavily influenced by the hippie movement. The peasant dress is probably the most characteristic of that era. These dresses typically had necklines that are off the shoulder, usually featuring a wide gathered ruffle. In many cases, these dresses had empire waists and full skirts. Most of the time, the dresses were made of soft cotton.