Origin of the Trend: Drop Waist

I don’t know if I love or hate the fact that so many contemporary trends originated in men’s fashion. Is this indicative of a fashion revolution, or will women never get their own niche (I mean, aside from dresses–but even those can be traced back to males)? In the case of the drop waist, it appears that women’s fashion has incorporated a masculine element and helped it blossom.

And it doesn’t hurt that drop waists are may more comfortable/allow for, you know, breathing to occur.

The transformation from constricting, corset-like bodices, which most likely decreased fertility rates (double-dipping in style and contraception) and stifled hunger, to dresses with dropped waists was one that coincided with the female sexual revolution in the 1920s. Whether the flapper or a slight increase in women’s freedom came first is up for debate, but it is evident that the former’s iconic dresses have their origins in a masculine silhouette. Because men, historically, weren’t fond of wearing corsets. But that’s just a generalization.

These dresses, which have come to symbolize the twenties, are Coco Chanel’s creation, called the Garçonne look. Even the style’s name, translating to “boy” in French, signifies masculinity. The look consisted of dropped waistlines, straight trousers, and masculine blazers and cardigans.

According to HemlineQuarterly.wordpress.com, ”As early as 1914, Coco Chanel was promoting a new silhouette for women, one that emphasized comfort over decorative frills.  By the end of World War I in 1918, her designs were selling throughout France. . . .  The corset was completely unnecessary to achieve the chic Chanel garçonne look: slim, straight, and vertical, with no waistline, and a hemline that emphasized movement rather than modesty.”

Coco, in her designs, encouraged wild nights of dancing and romping. Thanks, Coco, for contributing to the sexual revolution by allowing women to move their hips.

Because the Garçonne look made women look fancy and sexy and classy and young, but also simultaneously boyish and dainty, it stuck. So, the ladies looking to chop off their hair and flatten their ta-tas in an effort to display their independence and their to act on sexual impulses like men (supposedly) do were supported by this flowy, baggier dress style.

Though the 1950s brought an increase in popularity of more traditional waistlines (insert a feminist rant about a male-dominated society that mandates “feminine” silhouettes in fashion), the drop waist returned when women decided to shed sexual reservations yet again, in the 1960s. It’s beginning to look like this style is always associated with classy ladies looking to say, “Hey, dude, I’m hot and I can do it, too.” I wonder, then, what kind of sexual revolution is occurring now. (Could this trend be a product of the abortion debates? Was Rick Santorum the catalyst for the revival of the drop waist?)

According to SammyDVintage.com, ”While the ’60s marked a whirlwind time of trends and change, it also marked a return to favor for the drop waist. Thanks to production power and the rise of department store fashion, girls and women [could[ buy drop waist cotton and machine washable frocks in a variety of designs and patterns, like gingham, chevron stripes or oversize floral.”

And because the ’70s copied everything the ’60s did, the even-hippie-er decade was fond of the drop waist, too. But paired with shorter skirts. Because the ’70s liked to be a little bit raunchy.

The drop waist flourished in the 1980s and 1990s, where baggy silhouettes were, in some fashion circles, coveted. Ever since its creation, in the early 1920s, the drop waist has weaved its way into contemporary trends. The recent obsession with ’50s fashion resulted in a shift away from lower waistlines, in favor of emphasizing instead of diminishing curves; but now that countries are encouraging American women to get balls-to-the-wall furious with sexist politicians, many designers are forgoing hourglass silhouettes for boxier ones, as if to say, “We can look hot without spandex.”

Published at The Lion, The Stitch, and The Wardrobe on April 6, 2012.

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