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May 24, 2012

Things I Don't Get, Vol 2: The Bubble Dress



Readers, do you trust your own taste?  I mean, if you don't like something that's popular, do you wonder if you're just too small-town and unsophisticated to get it, or like the boy in The Emperor's New Clothes, are you able to confidently call it like you see it?

Things we get used to seeing a lot -- thong underwear, strip malls, my cousin Cathy -- start to look normal, no matter how weird they may have seemed at first.  Which brings me to today's topic: the bubble dress.  I don't have to explain what this is, do I?  It speaks for itself.



The bubble has been with us at least since the 1950's (blame Dior?) and, like mildew and Charo, no matter how often it goes away, it keeps coming back.  During the more streamlined Seventies it seemed like the bubble had been eradicated, but in the Eighties, there it was again!





The bubble is back again today -- and what's more, it has become a prom perennial: shorter, shinier, and bubblier than ever.






The bubble is not going anywhere, so I guess it's time to make peace with its voluminous ugliness.  No, that's not fair -- there is one body type that looks OK in the bubble: the ballerina.  The general rule is that if any other part of your body even vaguely resembles a bubble, avoid it.

The bubble looks best on dress forms (no legs), pattern envelopes (illustrated), and runway models (tall).  Plus the occasional Hollywood celebrity, after considerable styling, primping, and posing.





If you'd like to know how that bubble is created, you can read this informative post from the Couture Allure Vintage Fashion Blog.  It's basically a poofy sleeve you wear on your hips.

In addition to the bubble dress, there is this -- sort of a stiff, upholstered bubble or inverted tulip.  (How does one sit in that?)  Perhaps this look deserves a blog post all its own.



 

In closing, readers, a few questions:

1) When you see a bubble dress, do you -- like me -- want to cut that hem free and let it hang as the universe intended, or do you just look away and pretend not to notice?

2) Do you agree that the bubble basically creates a second waistline around your thighs? (Perhaps the secret is to keep it below the knee.)

3) If you like the bubble dress (and if so, I hope I didn't burst your bubble, he he), what am I missing?

Have a great day, everybody!

83 comments:

  1. I've always hated bubble dresses, bubble skirts, etc. I just don't see it as flattering for the body. I'm with you on #1, I want to 'fix' the hem. ;-)

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  2. I'm with you on this one: I never understood the bubble dress (but I didn't think it was going on for so long!)

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  3. I have one bubble skirt, and it is not a very full bubble, but it is SO much fun to dance in, and done in a way that it doesn't make me feel like I have a second waistline.
    I think it's one of those things you just have to style properly or avoid completely.

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  4. i have a confession to make; i have a 1950s bubble dress pattern that i fully intend to sew one day...probably not for me though; perhaps for one of my daughters.

    I love bubble dresses...they just look like so much fun!

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  5. It's sooooo damn ugly! I see so many cheap tacky versions in those strip mall stores. Christian Lacroix is the culprit who pushed the look in the eighties! You couldn't be more right when you said the only ones who could wear it are ballerinas! LOL!!

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    Replies
    1. Truer words!

      The silhouette appears contrived.

      Delete
  6. I like the looks of the cute orange one. Otherwise blech!

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  7. "I say it's spinach, and I say the hell with it."

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  8. Ok, so maybe it is the 80s brainwashing talking here, but I *actually* sort of like the bubble hem. Now, I agree that the look is best on dancers and actors, but I still kinda like it. I can't even say why. Maybe because it makes me think of all the 80s proms in tv and movies? Who knows...

    That reverse bubble... now *that* is seriously fugly. It doesn't even look good on the models...

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  9. I've hated bubble dresses since I was a kid in the bubble-dress-revival days of the Eighties. No matter how glamorous the rest of the dress is, I see the skirt and can only think "diaper". Or, worse, "loaded diaper".

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    Replies
    1. EXACTLY! And that is never a good look. Never.

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    2. That's how I see those puffy shorts from the 50s that Pete was raving over a few posts back.

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    3. Exactly. Doesn't work for a skit, definitely doesn't work for shorts/pants.

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  10. Just say no. Please god, no! No bubble dresses, bubble skirts, bubble clothing in general.

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  11. I think many of us remain scarred by the hideous pouffey ruchey concoctions of the bouffant '80s - early '90s. But if I shield my eyes from those, I'm finding I actually rather like several of the other bubble dresses you show.

    Tulip dresses however, I do not like at all... The shape is just wrong.

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  12. I have to take the side of the bubble. On the right wearer, a bubble is flirty, gala and chic. It works best on a younger wearer who is coltishly built, and it NEVER looks right when accessorized with major jewelry or furs. It's a young woman's fun party look, something you do during those all-too-brief years where we can wear what we damn well please and look great.

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    Replies
    1. Sandy, that comment sounds straight out of a 1958 Harper's Bazaar! LOL

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    2. You didn't know I was Carmel Snow in a previous life?

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  13. I didn't remember seeing them before I saw them recently in children's patterns! I'm surprised to see so many through the years. Mc Calls 6271. I think they're cute on kids.

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  14. only for girls (13-14 years old) with legs like a mile long!

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  15. I've never liked the bubble silhouette. It makes even the lithest women look bottom-heavy. And like you I just want to cut the hem and let gravity do its work.

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  16. SeamsterEast@aol.comMay 24, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    The Bubble -- like The Sack Dress -- is deliberately non-alluring. It is DESIGNED to obliterate the feminine form. The male equivilent is sweat pants.

    Each style fits in with a certain small segment of the population which wishes to be noticed for its clothing rather than its allure.

    My reaction is: Okay, duly noted.

    The only time I wear sweat pants is at the gym. And maybe when it's so cold out and I'm going to be outside so long I need extra warmth, and will pull a pair of sweat pants over my blue jeans. But that's function over form.

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  17. I'm with you. Cut the bubble dress, and while you are at it, sorry to the majority of the fashion world, peel off those leg warmers and get rid of them! UGH. (I feel like I'm alone with the leg warmers thing). :)

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    Replies
    1. I live at the "north pole" (not quite) so leg warmers are part of my survival gear in the winter, but otherwise I agree with you.

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    2. I LIKE leg warmers, but only on ballet dancers and Jennifer Beals.

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  18. On me no I do not like the bubble dress but I would like to add a category for when it looks good. I think they are down right adorable on girls under the age of I would say 10 at most but probably more like 8.

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  19. This dress is a bit love-hate for me.
    I love to look at it on a pattern or a ballerina...but not on my hips.
    Bubble? No balloon!

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  20. Love them, but the wearer needs a waist.

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  21. I've made exactly one bubble dress.
    For Halloween.
    The year I was a Slutty Pumpkin.

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  22. My 9 year old looks great in a bubble dress. but as for me - I steer well clear. I had one way back in the 80's and I cut it up it was sooo horrendous

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  23. Aw, c'mon, all you bubble-haters. Look at that top photo.

    If that is not a dream of chic, there is no such THING as chic.

    Right dress. Right wearer. It's not for everyone, but then, what is?

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  24. I don't agree with starlets looking good in bubbles. You're just distrated by their starness to judge properly. I find bubbles hideous and have the desire to cut the hem free.

    the only other place you haven't mention where a bubble looks good is on a baby or a toddler. Probably because it is attempting to disguise a diaper that world knows is under there anyway.

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  25. I always chalked up the bubble as hideous and awful, but I have to confess that I recently bought a very cute raincoat that has a rather subtle and not-too-puffy bubble hem and I love it. I rather like the first dress and Charlize definitely wears hers with aplomb. But by-and-large I think that most are tacky and unflattering, especially all the ones that came from the 80's - blech. I hated them at the time.

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  26. Great Caesar's ghost! That McCall's pattern is HIDEOUS. What IS that? It looks like she survived an autopsy.

    I'm not a fan of bubble dresses. They seem rather silly, don't they? I was a kid in the 60s and babies always wore those poofy plastic pants over their cloth diapers. That's what bubble dresses remind me of.

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    Replies
    1. That zipper down the front IS a little troubling...

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  27. I like the look of many 1950's bubble skirted dresses. Especially on dress forms or in the fashion pictures of their day. I think bubble hems can look good if their not too poofy (the ones on couture allure were nice, hemlines like soft coulds on full skirts, not crazy poof-ball shapes like we saw a few years back), long enough (I'd say to or past the knee) and worn by the tall and/or skinny.

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    1. I have to agree. The 50s bubble is attractive on the 50s models with the hour glass figure. But dresses with bows (the Simplicity pattern) or other stuff on the hem are just fugly and too heavy looking.
      The 80s certainly killed all the elegance and not just from the bubble. The hem then and now is just too short to make the puffed hem look good. And the Simplicity autopsy-survivor dress is just a mess - the hem is too narrow and short and looks just like a loaded diaper...
      I would never wear a bubble and would never ever make one for anybody - my sister asked me to for her graduation dress but I firmly declined to puff the hem of the otherwise lovely dress.

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  28. I would never, ever wear a bubble dress myself, but they are nice for small children. Like 2- to 6-year-olds. It gives the skirt a cute poof without having to have an uncomfortable crinoline, which isn't very practical for young children anyway.

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    1. And I do think below the knee looks best on the adults that think they ought to be able to wear it (ballerinas included).

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  29. I always wonder "What is IN that sack-looking thing?" The next question is how the hell do you iron it!

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  30. If God gave you a bubble bottom, you can wear the bubble dress to hide it. (LOL) Otherwise save it for 9 year old, or gutsy 16 year olds Bubbles should be poked, and popped before they fly away!

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  31. If God gave you a bubble bottom, you can wear the bubble dress to hide it. (LOL) Otherwise save it for 9 year old, or gutsy 16 year olds Bubbles should be poked, and popped before they fly away!

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  32. Last time I encountered one that is exactly what I did! Hideous cocktail bubble dress turned into flirty summer bridesmaid look by liberating the hem from the sleevy thing. It felt good!

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  33. Very good topic. A very bad look, except for ballerinas. How about Audrey Hepburn types? A short girl at church likes to wear them, a very bad look with her chunky thighs, and thicker ankles....I do remember my "teenage" doll sporting one, but then she was more than reed thin (pre-Barbie). Something a little similar, yet attractive, is a Burda over skirt I have, to wear over a slim A-line. Both ankle length. The overskirt is semi-transparent, gored, yet the gores narrow a litttle towards ankle. A bit like a looser "hobble" skirt (for faster walking). Comes with a cool jacket, like a jean jacket. This appeals to me. Maybe with cowboy boots (no Stetson). Cathie, in too humid Quebec.

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  34. I love the "full diaper" description. Gave me a good laugh.
    Doesn't M6323 (short red dress) remind you of one of the bathing suits in the article a couple of days ago.

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  35. That red bubble thing up there looks like a sci-fi nun garment.
    I'm guessing that Kathy will be wearing one as soon as confinement is over? She does have legs, after all.

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  36. I think you're bang-on with point number 2- a short bubble makes the proportions look even more odd. Maybe it's just because with a longer, more subtle bubble I can squint a little bit, keep my gaze above the hipline and just pretend it's an ordinary skirt.

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  37. Thank you! I generally come around to most styles, but I have never liked the bubble dress or harem pants. I have come to think jumpsuits and playsuits are kind of cute, but I know I won't take the plunge myself.

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  38. There is something strangely stifling and claustrophobic about the look of a bubble skirt. And if you have ever tried one on (those tight at the knees version) it feels strange, like being in some weird futuristic ensemble. Maybe that's just me.

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  39. Hate them. Was there for their revival in the 80's, and thought they were hideous then. Even secretly wished I was not so keen on wearing flattering clothing so I could get one (I really did). How's that for fashion love....wanting a dress you thought was hideous because it was 'in'. I do think some of those pattern pics are cute, in spite of the bubble, but they are highly staged and not practical. As for Charlize....it looks to me like her long dress somehow got wrapped around her knees--I just want to run up to her and straighten the darn thing out.

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  40. They look quite lovely on my seven-year-old stringbean of a daughter.

    Me? NFW.

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  41. Am I the only one who doesn't see much of a difference in the silhouette of a bubble skirt and a skirt with a crinoline? Not that I would wear either one, not the right age or body, but both are cute on the right person.

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    Replies
    1. You are right (IMO anyhow) I love the crinoline look (and yes, I'm too old for it and still wear it anyhow) and they are simply fun to wear.

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  42. Ok, here comes an embarrassing confession. My bridesmaids wore bubble skirts. Although I'd never heard them called that. They weren't too poofy but still. Still, a bridesmaid dress wouldn't be a bridesmaid dress if it was attractive!

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  43. Having hated them in the 80s, I would normally still be anti-bubble, and anti harem-pant for that matter. But I've seen enough French women carry off both styles beautifully that I've changed my mind. In the right fabric, drape and proportion, bubbles can be a lovely design detail instead of HeyLookAtMeImTrappedInABubble!

    That inverted tulip thing though--what is That about?

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  44. I like bubble dresses for kids and teens, and whenever Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" starts up... But then you also need gold confetti. And big hair...

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  45. I like the bubble dress in the first photo, and the plaid one. In general, I think bubble dresses are one of those things that needs a restrained hand. It's way to easy to add too much competing design elements like ruffles, bows, sequins, etc.

    Tulip skirts - I haven't seen many in real life. Maybe that says more about them than what I can say.

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  46. 50s bubble dress...sure. Any era after that h-e-l-l to the NO! And never ever ever above the knee. I'm not a fan of the inverted tulip either. It hates curvy girls like me. I think it really only works on someone who is rail thin and without hips.

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  47. Wouldn't be caught dead in one. I don't need a garbage bag around my bottom! I agree, they would look fine on a skinny girl with long legs (but what wouldn't?)

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  48. I think Balenciaga was the inventor of the silhouette. Oddly enough, the picture on the top with the length below the knee has elegance....... above the knee looks juvenile. And for God's sake no bows, flowers or any other frou-frou!

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  49. Oh, I rather like them. I've made a few knit bubble skirts and dresses and think they are fun. That being said, I didn't wear them the first time around. They didn't appeal to 8th grade me. But, I like them now :)

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  50. Not for me, in any event you would be hard pushed to determine where the bubble started and ended on my shape hehe.

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  51. Dear Peter,
    I agree with you about the bubble dress/skirt and to tell you the truth, I've seen the patterns and the magazine pics but I've never seen one on an actual person. It is one of those concepts that should work but doesn't. And you're right too about Cousin Cathy,looks totally normal but I am concerned about the baby.
    (what are you gonna do now?)

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  52. You know, the top dress by Dior is pretty stylish. The '80s versions are beyond wretched!

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  53. I think I had a skirt like this, and it had LAYERS. I was 11 and I thought it was magnificent. I love your posts.

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  54. Where is Cathey anyway?

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  55. Can't see her in a bubble dress even though she has the legs for it. I agree with the blog master. Liberate the hem line!!

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  56. This is a bit bilious, but the bubble hem offends me most on otherwise well-cut dresses; it's like a really cute dress that went into an issak denisen novel and contracted kwashiorkor or something - it looks bloated and makes me think of words like "paunch" or "jowls." Like myriad facial piercings and avant garde hair cuts, if you can pull it off, you'd look good in a cardboard box, but this does not mean that the aforementioned should be taken as pretty or for everyone. Cut that hem free! Usually a bubble hem has an amazing amount of fabric in there once you do :)

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  57. This post is disappointing, and the comments even more so. I read this blog not for tips on sewing, because I rarely sew clothing, but for the wonderful breath of fresh air you provide the blog world with your open minded perspectives on fashion and your wonderful writing.

    The idea that only certain body types can wear a dress is out of step with the generally forward thinking attitude of this blog. Critiquing a fashion style is one thing; saying it only looks good on one body type, age, etc. is another. If you rock it, you rock it, and even if you don't, who the fuck are we to say you shouldn't wear it because you were born with short legs or a big ass? Life is too short for this pettiness.

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  58. I am quite neutral about bubble dresses. I am tall (6'2") and slender, so I might look good in these, but I have never thought about wearing them. Maybe because they do not fit in my comfort zone :)

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  59. Jerri: This is a sewing blog and your use of profanity is disappointing.

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  60. Jerri: You are right. Everyone has the right to wear what they want, but not every body type lends itself to a particular fashion. Several years ago now, a woman came in where I work to pick up her man friend for lunch. She was about 5'5", 275 pounds and was sporting a skin tight black leather mini. It was disgusting. However, she had the right to wear it. I will give her that!

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  61. I think I know what Jerri is saying...I look forward to seeing what Peter has to say because he seems to think so deeply about his interests, he is an excellent and entertaining writer and there is a kindness that comes through his posts.

    The last 2 posts however, left me thinking I didn't want to read along anymore. I find picking on the world's ugliest patterns sort of mean and dreary.Each of those patterns depend on what the craftsperson does with them- end of story.

    I am totally finished with hearing about the cost of patterns. If they are more than I can afford, I don't buy them. If they are overpriced, nobody will buy them.This conversation also seems sort of petty and dreary...

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  62. Love the orange one. I would never wear a bubble skirt or dress though.

    Josette

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  63. I have to admit I love the bubble dress. And I loved it in the 80's. But I wore the Cyndi Lauper look as a tween and adored anything floofy. And do still. I'd love to do a bubble dress and I'm realistic, I'm all bubbles. And yes. I'd still wear it and be fine with looking like a giant ass. But I'd like to think that I'm the type who wears my clothes, not let them wear me. I'd make the dress my bitch and it'd work on my tubby curves :)

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  64. I don't like bubble skirts but I do own one! It is not a poofy one though, chiffon over a lining so I think the poof is toned down. I would def not wear the 80's ones though!

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