Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What is a 'Wiggle Dress'?

It seems that the real definition of a 'Wiggle Dress' has been blurred or stretched or maybe just completely ignored by sellers who don't know any better or don't really care.

The classic definition of a Wiggle Dress to longtime vintage clothing sellers and shoppers is that the width of the hem of the dress is narrower than the hips. This narrowness keeps your legs close together at the knees, causing the 'Wiggle' when you walk. Oh, that's what Wiggle means! You actually produce a wiggle when you walk! Wow.

Search for Wiggle Dress on ebay or etsy and you will pull up a ton of results, but probably less than half of the dresses are true wiggle dresses. Some sellers use 'Wiggle Dress' as a keyword to get people to see their dress. But if it's not a true wiggle dress, then you are Keyword Spamming folks. And don't tell me that lot's of sellers use it and that the definition has changed, because that is stupid rationale.
Buyers that are looking for a real Wiggle Dress are going to get mad if they have to sort through a bunch of non-wigglers to get to what they really want. And some sellers are wondering why ebay isn't as good as it used to be. Well, it's because you are chasing away good buyers who know what they are looking for and are frustrated with incorrect listings.

Here are a few dresses that I found by searching 'Wiggle Dress' - these are not Wiggle Dresses -

*A Wiggle dress does not have pleats or gathers in the skirt. You cannot get a crinoline under a Wiggle Dress.
*A Wiggle Dress does not have a flounce or turn into a bustle in the back.
*A Wiggle Dress does not have a slit up to the thigh.
*A Scooter dress is not a Wiggle Dress.
*A Mini Dress is not a Wiggle Dress
*A Romper is not a Wiggle Dress.

Here are some examples of actual Wiggle Dresses -


Elise said...

Thank you for clearing that up. I love the idea of a wiggle dress.

BomshellShocked said...

Great article!

I think part of the problem is that the term wiggle dress didn't seem to exist pre-ebay. Unlike other fashion terms, there isn't a long standing, solid dictionary definition. For years, when my friends and I were shopping for vintage 1950's wiggle dresses, what we wanted were sheath dresses that had multiple waist darts but were free of an actual waist seam, helping the wearer achieve a classic hourglass silhouette. Maybe its regional?

RocketJNYC said...

Honestly? As someone who has collected mid-century vintage for 30 years the term "wiggle dress" makes me cringe. It's not period appropriate (just try finding it in a Sear's catalog or a Vogue magazine of the era). It's just a marketing term coined by some ebay seller that caught on and took off. "Pencil dress." "Sheath dress." Both more appropriate and period appropriate terms.

Carol@Dandelion Vintage said...

Wiggle Dress and Bust Shelf probably weren't widely used before ebay. But I think Wiggle Dress is a good term, if used correctly, to refer to a Marilyn style dress with a pencil fit. But now both terms have been watered down so much by people who don't know what they refer to, that they are practically meaningless and worthless to anyone who might use those terms to search.

And don't even get me started on 'Swing Dresses'

Lisa said...

"...don't tell me that lots of sellers use it and that the definition has changed, because that is stupid rationale."

This applies to so many things vintage - e.g., "Swanky Swigs" used to describe any decorated glassware from the 40s-70s, rather than what it originally meant, which was a line of 4" decorated juice glasses put out by Kraft (sold with cheese spread in them.) It drives me crazy, how things are mis-identified; and then the mis-usage spreads, and before long you can hardly even use it any more and have it mean anything. And don't even get me started about the appropriation of the word "ephemera" to mean any kind of old paper, rather than just things that were never intended to be kept - like paper napkins, handbills, ticket stubs, etc. I can be a bit of a crank on that topic.

jen fleck said...

Thank you for the great article, and thanks for including our classic little black wiggler in the gallery.

Now, if only we can get sellers to understand that a circle dress = a dress with a skirt that, when spread flat on the floor, actually forms a CIRCLE.

lauren said...

thank you, THANK YOU!
i have long been hot under the collar regarding the widespread and incorrect usage of this word on Ebay and Etsy.

In addition to this, I prefer the more authentic term 'sheath dress' which seems to be used much less and thereby not as well-known (despite it's correctness!).

Wiggle dress...a term that is more of a marketing term drummed up in the not so distant passed, I think.

ringmaster said...

thank you thank you!!!

Rai said...

Thank you! The style that you described as an "actual" wiggle dress (i.e. pencil and sheath) made sense to me (having that shape naturally, I'd need to "wiggle" myself into one of those dresses lol), but I kept seeing it describing a variety of different styles. I actually googled the question "what is a wiggle dress" after seeing it so many times on so many different dresses!

Anonymous said...

I too had to google "what is a wiggle dress" after seeing it all over etsy. I went to fashion design school and never heard of it. I would have called those dresses sheaths, and if it was a skirt, a pencil skirt.

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

This is a great prompt for accuracy.
Just doing some research before listing a dress pattern on Etsy... Because I remember women wearing these dresses I am also old enough to be forgetting names. I was sure there was a contemporary term for them and both Lauren and Rai have reminded me of 'Sheath' and like Anonymous we used 'Pencil' to refer to skirts.
A great post and useful Comment page too. Thanks and all the best.

Anonymous said...

I do not really understand why anyone that truly has a passion for something would mind if new words and expressions evolve over the years to describe them. Specially if the term totally makes sense like the term "wiggle" dress. I do agree with this article though, that the term should be used only if it actually IS a wiggle dress. Good luck on the perfect world though, wont happen. There will always be individuals and company's that care more about profit than passion. I have to DISAGREE that the term wiggle dress was created by Ebay sellers after the existence of Ebay itself. I will NEVER forget when my great grandmother described to me at age 7 what a "wiggle" dress was. YES, she used that term! I know without a doubt that this term has been used well before Ebay, different areas use different terms for many things. Regardless, even if it evolved recently(which it didn't) what's the big deal! I am happy that younger girls are still loving and creating terms and designs from the amazing history of clothing!

Anonymous said...

This article is great, I recently sold an original 1950's damask skirt at auction. Unfortunately the client expected something tighter. It was an original and I used this term wiggle to describe it. As a teen I wore my moms fitted garments from the 50s' and they were a challenge to walk in. Shorter steps were required & sitting for any time was claustrophobic because the fabrics were not as a rule stretchy.
I keep an eye on the latest resurgence of older style clothing & because of the new stretch fabrics they are cutting them very close to the body, perhaps this is where the term wiggle came from. But you know that anyone with hips & heels will wiggle when they walk. It's part of the style.