When’s the last time you looked at the most beautiful, popular girl in school—the one who always looks stylish and put-together—and said to yourself, “Gee, she’d look great in a potato sack”?
While it is true that beauty comes from the inside, everyone wants to look good on the outside. And when Balenciaga introduced the shapeless sack dress to the 50’s, not even the chicest French designer could convince women that sack dresses were flattering.
This revolutionary change from the extreme hourglass shape of the 50’s shocked women who were used to the tiny, nipped-in waists of girdles. The sack was ugly, unfeminine and an insult to the womanly shape, a slap in the face to the ladies used to squeezing themselves into girdles.
Women rejected the sack dress, unable to adjust from the tiny-waisted hourglass silhouette. But when the 60’s rolled around, the tiny-waist style was replaced with the little girl look of the shift dress. A slimmer version of the sack, the shift still followed the lines of a woman’s body, but in a more natural way. The shift didn’t require bullet bras, waist girdles, and stiff crinolines: women were finally ready to give up the constraints.
Jackie Kennedy helped to convince the ladies that the shift was the way to go. She wore simple straight shifts that skimmed the body, rather than hugging it. The look was one of willowy adolescence, instead of bombshell. Mrs. Kennedy maintained a sleek sophistication by pairing the dress with gloves, handbags, and petite pillbox hats. Hers was the look of the early 60’s, and girls and ladies emulated the Queen of Camelot (who, by the way, would look absolutely stunning in a potato sack).