Stout Woman Revolution: The Shirtwaist dress.

I'm particular about what I think looks best on the stout woman. Princess seamed dresses get a no in my book. Its not that the dresses are ugly, far from it, its that particular style overwhelmingly isn't the most flattering for a larger shape. That style is meant to fit close to the body, gliding along the curves of a woman.

Most larger versions of that type of dress all have to be 'watered down' in a way in order to smooth over our lumps. Then what's the point? The style of the dress looses its purpose, and you are just stuck in a sack.

Hey, Im always the first to say even if its made in your size does not mean you should wear it. I don't find equality in silly things like that. I champion wear what looks best on you so you then will feel your best. Hate me if you want.

*There is something particulary charming about the 4721, I cant figure out just what yet.

I covered a lot of this when I did the do's and don'ts of how to flatter your stout figure. I championed the shirt waist, why, because its the most versatile, not just for a larger figure, but in general, one shirtwaist can go miles.

*The 30's 1683 is one of my favorites in my collection.

*That 1550 I've made more times than I can count.

No, they are not boring. You have more button, accent, and fabric choices with a shirt waist. Its an iconic staple of not just the stout, but the whole vintage look.

There are soooooo many different types as well! Ruffles, shawl collars, square necklines, multi panel bodices, buttons, sash fronts, notched or band collars, etc. So many choices!

When I see a lonely little shirtwaist next to an elaborate bodice dress, I snap it up. I know Ill get more mileage out of that one pattern, than that 'fancy' dress. Unless that fancy dress pattern is super cute, then why brake up the set. *wink wink*

Don't underestimate the power of the shirtwaist!


  1. I love ALL of these! Thank you for this post! I've been trying to figure out how to clothe my "new" menopausal figure; the old silhouettes in my closet just don't work anymore. I will be coming back to the shirtwaist more and more often.

  2. I've heard a lot of complaints from curvy ladies about various styles of vintage fashions and how they don't look good on a larger figure. I think that many people forget that these fashions were meant to be worn with a the right foundation garments. Ladies of the day had girdles and corsets to smooth over their lumps and bumps. I have a few princess seam dresses and I love them! The long lines lengthen the body and the seams that glide over the lip and waist area accentuate the nice nipped in effect that I get with the girdle underneath. Of course, without the vintage undies, they don't look so hot! The walkaway dress is another one of those that people try to wear with a modern bra and panties and they hate it! They blame the dress but they don't think about the fact that it was meant to be worn with the bullet bra and crinoline of the 50's. You're correct, there are a lot of fashions out there that simply weren't meant for us curvy gals, no matter what we have on under it but I tell everyone, never underestimate the power of vintage undies to create the perfect vintage silhouette!

  3. Actually, I'm going to give princess seams an "it depends". Not all stout women are heavy in the same places. If one is very pear-shaped, princess seams can be a godsend because they're great for camouflaging large hips and thighs.

    Conversely, lean-fitting Thirties patterns, and Forties patterns whose skirts fit closely over the hips, would be very difficult to fit and potentially very unflattering (especially the Forties ones that are large on top: A woman would end up with a dress that fit closely over her large hips, and a blousy top that made her upper body look even bigger).

  4. Perhaps I will need to try a shirtwaist dress; I've always been afraid that the style would make me look rather more chunky, since I am quite short, short-waisted, AND stout. I've been quite inspired seeing the dresses that you make.

    I have worn princess seamed dresses, which allow me a fairly close fit over the bust (my most difficult fitting challenge) that then skim over the rest. I think a lot depends on the choice of fabric, and wearing a slip to allow the dress to hang smoothly

  5. Oh, discussion! I knew this post would be a tad controversial.

    Im not opposed to form fitting, I adore a lean 30s look on a larger figure, and personally prefer it to a grand 50s silhouette. I dont think your dress has to be 'bigger' in order for you to look or feel 'smaller', if that is your goal with the style. In fact if that IS the goal, I think it does the opposite.

    Foundation garments or no, I still think princess seams on a stout figure dont work. And I dont think a shirtwaist makes you look frumpy either. :)

  6. New Vintage Lady, you are my hero.

  7. i jsut read your past article about what to wear to flatter a stout figure.. i loved it. eehhee. :) good job. thanks for the tips :)


  8. I imagine it depends on how a persons weight is distibuted, whether they are tall or short, long or short waisted etc it all makes a difference. Like Nancy I am trying to work out what suits my 'new' figure - and what I actually feel comfortable in. I find tucking a blouse into a skirt makes me feel 'dumpy' and would presume a shirtwaist would have the same effect. I do love the look of the ones you have shown though. The last dress I wore was a princess line dress and for some reason I felt exposed, I spent the whole time with arms or my bag covering up my stomache (yes I had appropriate underwear on). Ive stuck to blouses worn over pants or skirts since. I would love to be able to wear a dress though so maybe I'll make a couple of muslins to see how they feel.

  9. you're right, I suppose that it does matter where the bulk of the weight is. I am heavier in the bust and in the hips, so I LOVE my princess seam dresses!

  10. As others have said, weight distribution matters a lot--I look great in princess lines. If you have an hourglass figure they are great, even if your hourglass is a whole hour and not an egg timer! I can't wear boxy clothes, personally. They hide my waist and make me look much bigger.

  11. WOW, I was all ready to stay in NVLs corner, but isn't this why dicussion and comment areas are so cool. VaVoom Vintage and the other lady gave me another perspective on the princess seam while NVL is having me keep it real. So, a self evaluation of my fat is in order before attempting a princess seamed project and that is good to keep it mind.

    NVL, I'm linking this post on my blog's discussion of the shirtwaist dress. I'm loving them and will keep reading and researching. (I need to get my butt up and start a sewing, LOL)


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