Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Reader Query - Proper Undergarments for 1960s Shift Dresses

In addition to yesterday's question about the proper undergarments for a low-backed dress, reader Tara also inquired about the correct foundations for 1960s shift dresses. Are a bra and panties enough?

I love this dress on you Tara! And you've asked another great question! The fact of the matter is, shift and sheath style dresses from the early to mid 1960s were designed to be worn with a girdle and women still considered them a necessity during these years. It wasn't until the later 1960s, with the advent of knits, pantyhose, and pants for day wear that the girdle loses favor with younger women.

Girdles from this time do become sleeker, though, with fewer seams and newer innovations in stretch fabrics.

And you'll find foundations in brighter colors and prints start to appear. The nice thing about the dresses from this era is that modern body shapers will probably give you the sleek look you want, so it's not necessary to search for vintage foundations.

Most importantly, though, you should wear a slip over your foundations to allow your dress to glide smoothly over them. Here's an earlier post of mine about the importance of wearing a slip.

Tara, while your 60s dresses look great, try wearing them with a body shaper and see if it makes a difference in how they fit. I think you'll like what you see! Thanks for your questions. And if anyone else has questions, please feel free to post them in comments or email me through the website.


Jenifir said...

I have found the high-waisted(just under the bust) shaping half slip works well under a lined shift dress. It gives a much better line than the other modern alternative of control top panty hose (or even Spanx -which I found to give a stuffed sausage effect even when there is not much to stuff). A slip will only add to the positives of good foundation garments.

K.Line said...

I love these undergarments posts. And the ads you find always make girdles look exciting and almost sexy. But in actuality, the thought of wearing something so structured and stiff under a dress that's supposed to be elegantly free is at odds. I can't get past the idea that it's supposed to look easy but it's not. I guess I really am a child of the 70s.

deang said...

Has anyone else ever wondered where the name "shift" came from? I have no idea. As a child, I imagined it meant that, unlike the previous decade's sheath dresses and the like, the looser shift dress allowed the body to "shift" around inside it. Probably nowhere near the real etymology. Anyone know? Is it an anglicization of a French word or something?

Perdita said...

Can i add this depends on where you are. Underwear habits in Europe and the US have always (and arguably still do- 'nice girls' in the UK with wear G strings to avoid VPL, but my American friends are aghast at this!) worn slightly different underwear. First-hand, from 60s Londoners, I found that girdles were not always worn with shifts from quite early on, this might have something to do with the tiny frames of English girls raised on rationing (something which did influence the British 'Twiggy' look). So it depends on whether you are looking for an early 60s US 'groomed' look or a 'swinging 60s' London look ... either way I found when constuming seamless 'shortie' pants and a bra worked well as you just couldn't see them- and if the shift is still showing bumps and lumps it needs to be let out a little.

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