Elegance, soft and simple.
Occasionally, when it comes time to write about a particular dress, I fear there aren’t enough details to describe the piece–not a rich enough story lying between the seams. But amid the flurry of these doubts I’m reminded of why I love and wear it myself.
I came to fall for this 1950s shirtwaist dress in a similar way that it falls on and around me.
It’s unlike any other I own in the way it drapes over the shoulders and again at the waist after being primly nipped in. In a word, the dress is easy.
And comfortable. The skirt–roomy but not necessarily full or heavy–skims just below the knee. Unlike slimmer or shorter styles, it never seems to be inhibitive.
It’s fashioned from cotton, with an intricate leafy embroidery throughout the bodice and skirt in alternating black and white. The grayscale tones of the dress lend a posh feel to a piece that feels unashamedly domestic. It’s cheery without being particularly girlish.
The five large buttons on the bodice and collar contrast this in a slightly whimsical way. The buttons themselves are likely bakelite, an early plastic, and are in very good condition. In fact, for one of my older pieces, the dress is still in relatively good shape.
It does, however, have a small spattering of damage to the fabric in the back, but it isn’t terribly noticeable. I think of this dress as one of my best scores: three sold in an as-is lot on Instagram for $15.
As I’ve said before, a bit of wear and tear is just part of the story; no reason to love something any less.
Another interesting note of the dress’s structure is what almost resembles a panel in the center of the bodice, starting around the unique and slightly low collar and trailing to the waist, where one of the embroidered seams is only as wide as the panel.
Credit is due here to the metal side zipper of this dress.
I rarely pay mind to the pros of having one; they are significantly less common after the 1940s and 50s. This one–as many likely do–helps to avoid the break-up of pattern that a back zipper might cause. It gives such a singular motion to the dress, one not split by the inconvenience of a metallic seam.
In the end, to worry that this dress could be found uninteresting is simply unjustified. I have to ask myself: would the person who first loved this dress be concerned of how many others appreciated it? Maybe, but maybe not.
Maybe she had a similar memory of going out for ice cream in it as I have: surrounded by her college friends (future husband included) celebrating the finish line of a four day theatre run, orange lights dancing off the bakelite and waffle cone crumbling away in her teeth.