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Dec 31, 2012

Whatever Happened to the BIG FLOUNCE?



Friends, on this final day of 2012, many of you are no doubt dressing for glamorous New Year's Eve parties.  Are any of you planning to wear something with a big taffeta flounce?  (A little taffeta flounce?)

Whatever happened to flounces, by which I mean the huge bows, tulle drapery, and silk satin gathers that decorated so many dresses in the mid-to-late 1950's?  Talk about drama!















For a short time these styles seemed to be everywhere and then suddened -- phfft -- gone.  Much like the Detroit-designed tailfin or the "Mediterranean" TV console, by the mid-Sixties, fancy schmancy was on its way out and function on its way in.





Also, let's face it, a fanny flounce is hard to sit down on, while a long tulle train is easily caught in a subway or elevator door.  Not practical for modern living.

The Fifties flounce I like best accompanies a skin-tight wiggle dress.  This is a look you often see on those Italian and French-inspired Modes Royale and Spadea patterns. Do you know them?

 





I think these dresses looked best on extremely curvaceous women, though flounces can give a curvaceous look to those lacking the requisite shape too. 











A search on Etsy will unearth only a few flouncy Fifties cocktail dresses.  I don't think most held up very well as they were highly crushable and difficult to press.




To me these dresses recall a lost world of supper clubs, cocktail parties and corsetry.  Occasionally a contemporary designer like John Galliano tries to resurrect the big flouncy look, but the result is generally costumey.  There was a grace and restraint to the old styles that these new versions lack.  Do you agree?









Christian Dior, 1955

With the exception of Laura Mae (just check out her flouncy vintage pattern Pinterest board) and Gertie (whose Ceil Chapman obsession is well-documented), I can't think of any sewing bloggers who are recreating these silhouettes (though the vintage patterns usually sell for big bucks).  Can you?

In closing, readers, do you gaze upon these styles with romantic longing, disdain, or something else entirely?

Is the big flounce simply too dated for today, an embellishment best left for the dining room drapes, or is it time to throw some tulle over our shoulders and glam it up a bit?

Jump in!



40 comments:

  1. One of the newest Vintage Vogue reprints has a glorious swath of drapery hanging off of one hip. I think it's meant to be made out of something more slinky, like a silk charmeuse, though and probably wouldn't qualify as a 'flounce' - but you can still take it in one hand and twitch it like a cat's tail to punctuate a sentence.

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  2. Perhaps as ladies have grown wider, the interest in widening the hipline with flounces has diminished?

    For myself, many of those fab dresses are WAY more formal than I dress. I love the look. That '55 Dior with the collar is fabulous, but I can't think where on earth I'd wear it. The skeeters at the last lawn wedding I went to were vicious, so wore pants just to avoid contracting West Nile.

    Living in Portlandia , the home of jeans at the evening ballet, doesn't help either. None of those are bike riding frocks. Or walking over the bridge in the rain to get to a casual workday frocks.

    They're awfully pretty though. :)

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  3. It may be down to my obsession with vintage magazines, but I've been planning a skirt with a flounce for a month now. I don't have many opportunities to don glamorous evening wear, so I won't go for taffeta or satin. And I will make a skirt rather than a dress (at least, I think so now).

    In fact I love the left design on the "fashion refreshment" pattern envelope.
    Oh, and I think details like flounces are great for emphasizing or even simulating extreme curves (not unlike the stick-out pockets which I'm find of recently. Which are more of a daywear option)

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  4. I love the dresses with flounces. Sadly, there are just not many occasions in a modern gal's life to warrant such wonderful dresses. I have limited my "flouncing" to Victorian repro dresses for vintage theme affairs. Those are the gatherings to get your flounce obsession into full gear!

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  5. Hi Peter, I think flounces became to dangerous for everyday life..getting caught in elevator doors, taxi doors etc..

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  6. I think fancy dresses and flounces have disappeared because women are actually expected to do something now and men have stopped opening car doors for women etc etc. Though my door opening policy is pretty generous and non gender specific. If your first to the door open it for yourself and hold it open for at least one person if people are behind you. I HATE when women open the door a crack, walk sideways through it and pull it shut behind them as a stream of people are trying to get through.

    Having said that hubby does open doors so maybe I should consider more flounces. Though another thought is in the mid sixties women discovered they had legs so didn't need flounces to entice and ensnare.

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  7. People just don't make entrances anymore- they slither in late and mouth apologies about the parking. So a door stopping flouncey beast just doesn't get the parade it deserves.

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  8. My daughter's wedding dress had a removable flounce that attached at the nape...it was a beautiful fitted column lace and pearl embellished dress with a cut-out back. And then this gorgeous flounce/train. It was so elegant - definitely a vintage, yet modern feel to a dress. The guests couldn't stop talking about how beautiful it was!

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  9. I have 6 yards of Raspberry taffeta with a gold shimmer just waiting to be made up into a glamorous full-skirted cocktail confection...that I plan to wear to the evening ballet in Portlandia in February...look for me making an entrance among the denim-wearing crowd. I can wear jeans anytime, why waste a dress-up opportunity just because other people do? Will there be flounces? I'm trying to figure out exactly what I want the final thing to look like. With so many spectacular flouncy inspiration pics to look at here, it just might morph that direction. To be fair, though, I'll be driving rather than trying to navigate a taxi or bike.

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  10. Love, Love flounces!
    I have few opportunities to wear them.
    (maybe need a NY resolution to make more flounce occasions happen?)

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  11. I blame the '80s, where obnoxious quantities of puff and flounce and bows put us all off for the next 30 years.

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  12. We have the peplum... perhaps we could just slowly bring tasteful flounces back. Your examples made me squee with desire, and please, please, can anybody tell me the number of the simplicity pattern? I must have it!

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    1. Simplicity 1855.

      http://www.etsy.com/listing/118816969/glamorous-vintage-cocktail-party-wiggle?ref=sr_gallery_1&ga_search_query=simplicity+1855&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_ship_to=US&ga_search_type=all

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    2. Those prices!!!
      I had no idea they were so high. I have a bunch of Vogue Paris Original patterns from the 60's...she has them priced over $75.
      If they are bringing those kinds of prices...why doesn't Vogue re-issue some?

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  13. Hey, 1159 is righteous. (Flounces, in general, are.) Build it.

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  14. Flounces are lovely, very feminine! Who is the lady in the white dress, that looks like it has wings?

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  15. I think Rosalind Russell single-handedly killed off derriere detailing in the original stage version of Auntie Mame.

    At one point in the play, she's widowed, and turns up dressed in deepest mourning - we think. The best gag of the evening came when Russell, sobbing into a fetching black mouchoir, turned around - to reveal a huge, and under the circumstances, totally tasteless, bow on her behind.

    It always got a huge laugh.

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  16. Hi, another Leigh here.

    I am in LOVE with that Simplicity 1866. The Christian Dior is lovely, as well. Well, I mean, they all are. I'd love to see a comeback of this kind of thing. Such drama! Not very practical, perhaps, no. But it must be nice to not have to be practical all the time: to play up our curves and put on a gorgeous, dramatic dress and go out somewhere elegant. (Says the woman who is spending New Year's Eve at home on the computer.)

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  17. Loretta Young and her television show: the height of elegance in my 1950's young life...she used to 'hang' at the Ojai Valley Inn and also The Oaks in Ojai along with the other stars of the era. those dresses were much in evidence, i understand--i was still in jammies with feet, alas...those women were the ideal and when i look at glam fabrics i can see them and your cousin, for that matter...love the flurry of tulle

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  18. You can't buy the right fabric anymore. A lot of those dresses would have been made in real silk taffeta or a silk that was heftier than we can buy today. I remember a dress my mother had from that era. Navy blue silk taffeta that showed various colors as it moved. Much heavier than fabric for dresses today.

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  19. Omg I love flounce!! But for me its the 40's style hip swag (love that word)...its probably slighly more demure than what they were doing in the fifties..
    I actually have about 4 patterns from the 40's that have an exaggerated hip feature. Only made up one because I've been wanting to find the right fabric for the others and I'm also suffering a case of "its vintage fabric, if I ruin it, thats IT"...
    And I WILL wear them. During the day. When I do make them. Cos bugger it, why not!

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  20. Cloth kits sell skirt kits with bustles/flounces http://www.clothkits.co.uk/bustle-skirt-blue-wool-liberty-p-1078.html

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    1. That's an interesting website. I'd never seen that one before.

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  21. Flounce? I can't take my eyes off of that crazy collar on the blue dress in the Advance pattern at the top! It's total Alexander McQueen.

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    Replies
    1. Cleavage blinders!

      Oh, and "SABLE!", Phyllis.

      [It is my resolution to start using my stash in some manner this year - and I credit you, Phyllis, in cultivating this resolution.]

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  22. Gosh, what a show! Tastes for all things "grown up" (in fashion, music and politics) died a lingering death in the sixties, thus giving Mad Men a good sub-plot. I was a the V & A yesterday, admiring Balenciaga's work, in particular a seemingly modest knee length cocktail number, with polka dots, which he then finishes with a truly spectacular bustle, a foot & a half wide if it's an inch. It shouldn't work but in his hands it absolutely does. It's fabric plus drama equals sculpture, truly a great master.

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  23. Oooooh, I love the flounce, it looks so delightfully feminine and luscious.

    But, OMG I LOVE the dress Marilyn Monroe is wearing...where did you find this photo? I'd love to copy this dress!

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  24. I love all the vintage flounces you featured. So elegant and eye-catching. Nobody dresses that fancy any more...unfortunately.

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  25. Lots of fun. Hubster found about 30 meters of vintage taffetta, for $5., at a charity shop near us. This way I can play with vintage-inspired skirt ideas, and wear with a well fitting T. Artistic, dramatic, to wear with boots, and even a jean jacket. My nieces love this taste. Cathie, in Quebec.

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  26. I'm in love with the Advance 8171, though that could be because that flounce/drape would sort of conceal my derrière but the deep v-back would highlight my tattoo.

    I think the flounce got lost when people started dressing more casually in the late 60's, but I think it could make a comeback - particularly with the popularity of vintage-inspired fashion and shows like "Mad Men" and "Downton Abbey" renewing an interest in fashion from previous eras. Pinup Girl Clothing is a woman-owned company which specializes in vintage-inspired clothing and they have one dress that has something of a smaller flounce (though, in truth it's supposed to be a faux wrap-belt). http://www.pinupgirlclothing.com/ava-dress-in-teal.html
    Trashy Diva, another vintage-inspired clothing company sells this dress http://www.trashydiva.com/shop/Candice-Gwinn-Sadie-Beads-FINAL-SALE-p87.html and though the draping in the front isn't a true flounce, I think it gives a similar effect. Pinup Girl has a style forum and often the women there say that when they wear vintage or vintage-inspired clothing, people make comments and ask them why they are so "dressed up". For many of those women, it's not something they wear for special occasions, but rather a style they wear all the time. I like to wear dresses and heels but they're a bit impractical for chasing my 3 year-old son on the playground, but I agree with the others who say that we don't take the time to dress nicely anymore as one of the reasons why this kind of fashion isn't more common.

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  27. I think the flounce got lost when wig companies started to focus on the big bucks. These designs use way more fabric and hours to make, resulting in less garments per yard and less profitability. I think fashion nowadays is dictated by profit per unit and dresses with extra fabric don't fit that model.
    Just cynical me...but am I wrong?

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  28. I say flounce it! Life's too short not to dress up!

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  29. I have Simplicity 1855 and 1866, which puts me squarely in the flounce appreciation society! S1855 I plan to make as is, although I was leaning towards a flounce-free (V2) of S1866 as I fear my bust is buxom enough that it doesn't need a great big bow sitting on it... After this post however, how could I not? The flounce is back!

    Happy New Year, Peter!

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  30. Oops, I seem to have got my 1855 and 1866 mixed up. 'Tis the other way round!

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  31. I love drapey side flounces like the one in the first picture posted, and also the little flouncey pocket flaps that are shown further down. And fabric around the shoulders (ala the Cathy shot) looks very elegant. Not so sure about flounces that are situated in the center of the tummy or the butt - they could make a gal look pretty thick. Those would have to be very carefully thought out to prevent creating an unflattering silhouette.

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  32. Oh I know who can't wait to wear a dress with a flounce! (hint: her name starts with a C...) Maybe we don't see any flounces besides the red carpet anymore because it's very difficult to make and take care of? But I wouldn't be surprised if we were gonna see more flounces getting into fashion, maybe not in the exact same way as back then but in some way :)

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  33. New Look 6123 is a modern pattern with a flounce I made for my work Christmas party. It doesn't have a big flounce but it does have a flounce and it turned out beautifully!

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  34. Let's not forget Austin from Season #1 of Project Runway who flounced his Banana Republic assignment to the nines! It was, IMHO, gorgeous and def. very retro. even though the BR designer didn't think he'd followed instructions closely enough.

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  35. Ran across this post through another blog the other day, and I think I have you to blame for the gorgeous silk-and-lace 50s vintage dress I just picked up on etsy, complete with silk side-drape! I kept coming back to the picture, thinking about this post, and finally gave in . . .

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