A comment from Fabricated about the peculiar pockets of 1917 reminded me that big pockets, which visually widened the hips, were in style again in the late forties and through the nineteen fifties. But in the fifties, they emphasized a tiny waist.
This is the influence of Dior’s 1947 collection, when he cinched in his models’ waists and padded their hips to achieve an exaggeratedly feminine shape. For several years, couturiers and even some ready-to-wear manufacturers built foundation garments into suits and dresses.
Couture tip: When a bodice or jacket fits this tightly, an interior waistband of grosgrain ribbon is used. It fits very tightly around the waist, and closes with hooks and eyes or bars. You fasten the interior waistband, and then zip or button the garment. Since the ribbon waistband is attached to the seam allowances of the garment, often at the side and back seams, it takes the strain of the tight waist, so there is never any visible pulling at the buttonholes.
You can see one end of such a band inside this Dior dress dated 1955 on the label.
The bare topped, pleated dress had inch-wide straps, and could be worn with or without this cropped jacket.
I have added a link to the large collection of couture sketched for the Bergdorf Goodman store between 1930 and 1950 to my “Sites with Great Information” Sidebar.
I don’t have a a good collection of 1950’s illustrations, but here are a few images I’ve assembled:
The Anne Adams pattern is similar to Butterick 5718 from 1951. Mail Order patterns were usually conservative, and a little behind the times.
Below: The curves and decorated pockets of this 1948 suit lead your eye from hip to waist. A similar style, Vogue pattern 1096, by Molyneux, was issued in 1950. It has hip pads and double curved pockets, one on top of another.
Another hip-widening style was the peplum, which flared out from the waist of a jacket or blouse. The patch-pocketed jacket below was illustrated repeatedly in 1948; the back of this jacket gives a “peplum effect.”
Below: The three tops on the left have hip-widening peplums; not a pocket but “drapery tied in the back gives hipline emphasis to the blouse top” of the two-piece dress on the right.
The fashion for exaggerated hips and tiny waists continued through the 1950’s. This coat-dress from 1956 has a very full skirt accented by large pockets:
This 1956 suit has a shorter jacket than the peplum fashions of 1948, but it still creates a strong horizontal line at the hip, accented with horizontal, decorative pocket flaps.
In 1959 and 1960, big pockets and small waists were still appearing on patterns:
If you’re considering the “wider hips will make my waist look smaller” concept, there are a few caveats.
One: A normal human being does not look like these fashion illustrations. These fashions are flattering if you have a normally proportioned figure, or are slender. A full skirt will also conceal disproportionate hips. But, if you carry your extra pounds around your midriff, the illusion may not work, unless…. (See “Two.”)
Two: The dressy fashions were designed to be worn over a foundation, a “merry widow” corset, or a waist cinch, all of which reshape the natural figure. Tight bodices which didn’t have built-in corsetry looked better when worn over elastic and boning that created a figure more like the ideal.
Of course, I didn’t wear such foundation garments under my shirtwaist school dresses. I didn’t want a tight fit or a tiny waist, anyway.
I don’t think ordinary women expected to look like couture models or the women in movies. But the dress forms used for clothing design were not the same as a natural, uncorseted body. Bodices were made to be very tight over a firm, fat-free ribcage, and shaped with many darts. (And dress mannequins’ posteriors were pushed down and flattened like the backside of a woman wearing a girdle.)
Four darts in front and and four in back were usually the minimum on a simple dress, like the cap-sleeved white and blue one. Six darts in front (like the three jackets top and right) were not unusual. The plaid dress at top left also has two darts each side of the center seam (and probably, hidden by the shawl, a dart pointing from each side seam to the bust points.) The darkest blue suit is shaped by princess seams, but still has three additional waist darts on each side!
All those darts were necessary to transition from the bust (say, 34 inches around) to the waist (say, 26″ or less) without any unflattering looseness or gathers (or bulges showing.) This dress from 1960 has big hip pockets and a tight waist, but all three dresses have just one bust dart at each side to control that bodice fullness:
If you have a yen to see more big pockets and fifties fashions, I recommend Wade Laboissonierre’s full color, generously illustrated book, Blueprints of Fashion: Home Sewing Patterns of the 1950s.