20th Century, What I wear

A weddings and wear-anywhere wiggle dress

Last weekend Mr D and I had a wedding to attend, and I realised that all of my fancy frocks were either too fancy for this wedding (you can’t wear a frock with a tiny train to a wedding if you know in advance the bride is wearing a short dress!), too light for an autumn wedding, or in non-wedding appropriate black or white.  Obviously a new dress was needed!

So I rummaged around in my fabric stash and dug up a length of jewel green stretch cotton sateen that I bought at the last Fabric Warehouse sale because I needed a tiny bit of it to trim a hat to match a pair of shoes to wear with another dress, and in order to get the discount I had to buy at least a metre, and as long as I was buying a metre I might as well buy a dress length…(you can see where this is going).

Then I dug around in my patterns and unearthed Advance 8321, which I bought from a friend recently when she had a big clear out.

A few hours of cutting and fitting and sewing later, I had the perfect wear-it-to-a-wedding wiggle dress:

A late 1950s wear-anywhere wiggle dress thedreamstress.com

For the original wedding, I wore it with black heels and a black satin sash:

Advance 8321 wiggle dress thedreamstress.com



Advance 8321 wiggle dress thedreamstress.com

Other than pointy heels on a squishy lawn, it was perfect for the wedding (And no less than three random guests came up to me and told me that my dress was gorgeous!  And I overheard the groom’s aunt describe me as ‘the girl in the stunning green dress.’ Sewing happiness right there!)

I had planned to wear it with a jewelled gold and silver ribbon belt (Fabric Warehouse sells the most amazing jewelled ribbons), but couldn’t find the belt when we were packing for the wedding:

Advance 8321 wiggle dress thedreamstress.com

A late 1950s wear-anywhere wiggle dress thedreamstress.com

The wonderful thing about wiggle dresses is how versatile they are.  Pair it with boots, a cardigan or fitted jacket and a belt, and it works great as  winter office wear:

A late 1950s wear-anywhere wiggle dress thedreamstress.com

A late 1950s wear-anywhere wiggle dress thedreamstress.com

For elegant dressed-down summer wear, it goes beautifully with the shoes I originally bought the fabric to match, and a braided leather belt.

A late 1950s wear-anywhere wiggle dress thedreamstress.com

They are pretty awesome shoes aren’t they?

A late 1950s wear-anywhere wiggle dress thedreamstress.com

I made a few adjustments when sewing up the pattern.  I added a waist seam, just to give me a bit more waist definition, and because it’s so much easier to fit a dress with a waist seam (especially if you have a sway back and prominent bottom, as I do).  I narrowed the skirt considerably, because while ’50s patterns may show a slim pencil skirt on the envelope, they always sew-up as A-lines.  I also added a pleat detail to the back seam, rather than just having an open slit.  Finally, I dropped the back hem slightly, for a little hem interest.  And there was a lot of general adjusting and taking in everywhere but at the waist, because I don’t have the 11″ bust/waist and 13″ waist/hip differential that ’50s patterns think is normal!

A late 1950s wear-anywhere wiggle dress thedreamstress.com

Just the facts, Ma’am:

Fabric:  1.2 metres of jewel green stretch cotton sateen, $12pm

Pattern:  Advance 8321.

Year:  1956-58

Notions:  thread (stash), invisible zip ($5), black lace for hemming (inherited from Nana), stay tape (stash).

Hours:  6

Make again?  I think I need to make the version with awesome sleeves in wool crepe…

Wear again?  Definitely!  It works for everything!

And the insides?  Oooh..so pretty!  I need to take detail photos so I can show you the lace hem.  It’s a thing of beauty and a joy forever!

Total cost:  $20 (more or less).


  1. Margaret says

    I love your different versions, with different accessories – only trouble is, now I can’t decide which I like best!

    • Thank you! I have the same problem, but I’ll probably have more excuses to wear it in the winter or summer looks than wedding-glam 😉

    • Thank you! I love this shade too, but I have too many colours I love to pick one favourite 😉 Good luck with yours!

  2. Love how you styled it all those different ways. And overhearing a compliment about it = the best.

    • Thank you! I wanted to go even more overboard with style changes and location changes, but I had a recalcitrant photographer and had to scale it back 😉

  3. Lynne says

    Just lovely! The groom’s aunt knew what she was talking about. And for the record, you don’t have a prominent bottom, you have a pert posterior. 🙂

    • Thank you! I was very chuffed when I overheard her 🙂

      And thank you again, though I actually rather like the bluntness of the sewing term 😉 I’m quite happy with my bottom, pert &/or prominent!

  4. It IS stunning. Sometimes less really is more. It looks amazing with the black sash and shoes.

  5. What a nice dress! If I had a dress that looked that good on me-I’d be in it all of the time! And I bow to your greatness…6 hours with all that adjusting and altering? Amazing!

    • Thank you! The one problem with dresses like these is they do require you to stand very straight and tuck in your tum 😉

      Wiggle dresses are just so fast to sew – 8 pieces altogether: overlock all the edges, sew in a few darts, side seams, waist seam, waist stay, invisible zip, finish neck and hem – now that I have the alterations done I could do it in four hours.

  6. Awesome! Green never appealed to me until I saw this!! I may have to add green to my wardrobe soon.

    • Thanks! Green is a great colour – especially this shade. I do find that most people respond positively to green clothes.

    • Thank you Hana! My wardrobe would allow for another 16 or so combinations, but I though I’d best not overwhelm y’all 😉

  7. Beautiful dress. I wouldn’t have thought that green would lend itself to pairing with so many different accessories, but it really does in this instance.

    • Thanks Cari! This shade of green is a wonderfully versatile colour, almost a neutral. I also have a pale yellow silk sash it works well with, and a periwinkle blue one that looks stunning. Plus tons more black and nude and brown things. But I had to restrain myself slightly for the photoshoot 😉

  8. What’s better than a wiggle dress? (A wiggle dress in cotton sateen in emerald green of course!) You look stunning!

  9. Lovely! The changes you made make it quite flattering on you, and the color is to die for!!!!

    I might have to come over and steal it from your closet…


  10. Holly says

    I love this! I love seeing you in a contemporary frock. The colour is fantastic, and the silhouette is very flattering on you. Congratulations… just a shame you didn’t get to wear that jewelled belt on the day.
    I look forward to seeing you remake this one day.

    • Thanks Holly! I do love the black sash and shoes, and it worked beautifully on the day, so I’m happy with it 🙂

  11. It is stunning, and perfect for the occasion.

    Based on the measurements I assume the pattern was originally intended to fit over a girdle. I know human morphology is changing over time, but not that quickly.

    • Thank you!

      Human morphology doesn’t change that quickly, but the desired body silhouette does, and patterns are based on fashion, not reality 😉 It was meant to be worn over a girdle, but even the most aggressive of girdles wouldn’t give me that silhouette – I simply don’t have enough bust. The desired ’50s figure was a cup size fuller in the bust (and thus an extra inch, inch and a half up from me) and had been cinched in at the waist for years (and thus was an inch or two down from me). I’m simply small busted, big ribbed, and thick waisted. But totally fine with that!

      • I’ve always said that commercial patterns aren’t constructed to fit the average body (if there is such a thing).

        It’s clear from your example that you don’t need an idealised 50’s figure to look gorgeous in this pattern.

        • Hear hear! Though there is an ‘average’ body based on some ways of calculating average – there has to be! And I have had a number of students who fit Burda patterns with no adjustments at all, and I fit 1930s and early 40s patterns with no adjustments at all. So some patterns do work straight out of the packet for some bodies!

  12. Susan says

    Stunning, absolutely lovely. You are beautiful and this dress is gorgeous ! Thanks so much for sharing with us!

  13. Zach says

    Very pretty, indeed! It’s no wonder everyone was complimenting you–that dress looks wonderful on you!

  14. MJ Ruisi says

    Wow!! how perfect …shape color,the multitude of uses….It’s smashing on you!!!!Fantastic,Leimomi! Yay!

    • Thanks MJ! The funny thing is that I was really not sure about the colour. It’s much more vivid than what I usually go for. I’m sold now!

  15. I LOVE your wiggle dress! The design, the colour and the way you combine it with accessoires to give it different looks! I think I need a wiggle dress. Definitely. I hardly know how I could survive this long without one! 🙂 Thank you for your inspiration! Lots of regards from Germany, Kris

  16. missjoiedevivre says

    I loved the colour when I saw this in your hands being edited, but seeing it on you? It is absolutely amazing. This is one of my absolute favourites of things you have made, you look absolutely stunning.

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