Stunning vintage evening dresses: Red carpet looks and skintight bodycon styles from the 1950s & 1960s
The photos below were from a major national advertising campaign that ran during the ’40s,’50s and ’60s. Sure, the dresses weren’t practical (imagine walking with your knees practically bound together), but these ads were stunningly beautiful in every other way: the fabrics and designs, styling and models, hair and makeup, locations and photography.
So what were these ladies selling? Probably not what you think.
Yes, these are all real couture dresses that were supremely stylish for the era — and yes, the gowns were worn by professional models, with the pictures shot by talented fashion photographers.
But these weren’t ads for the dresses. We will tell you the story at the end of the page, but first, appreciate the look of these spectacular vintage evening dresses. In many ways, they were slightly ahead of their time — and also classic enough to stand the test of time.
1. This slim sequined black evening dress from 1957 gives whole new meaning to LBD – and looks like something you might see at an Oscars gala in Hollywood!
2. Gold lame on a fabulous form-fitting dress from 1956 with a sheer train
3. Here’s a slinky, shimmering, stylish silver lame evening gown from 1962
4. No gloves mar the lines of some of the most stunning vintage evening dresses — like-this captivating cream-colored mermaid dress from 1950
5. This super slender and gorgeously glamorous gold evening dress comes from the 1950s
6. Shimmery white evening dress from 1962 with gold stitching on the skirt
7. Figure-hugging gold vintage evening dresses — this one 1962 has a matching cape or jacket clings to every curve
8. The understated brick red lace on this form-fitting dress from 1962 is both classy and classic
9. This slinky white mermaid dress of Chantilly lace is paired with coral and hot pink gloves and a wrap (1954)
10. Fashionable vintage evening dresses: This satiny black mermaid-style gown is from 1962
The story of these vintage evening dresses
When we said these were bodycon dresses — well, there’s a whole other side of the “body conscious” theme you probably didn’t expect.
When you’re looking at the evening dresses shown above, what you’re actually looking at are ads created to sell maxi pads. Yep. Specifically Modess.
All of these images were hand-collected from scans of magazines published during the mid-century era. In every case, the Modess dresses and styling stood out. In fact, we tried to find more images to fit this theme — super-elegant and slim formal dresses from the fifties and sixties — but couldn’t find anything comparable in our collection, because they were just that good.
Many of the dresses used for the Modess campaign were created by a woman who was uncredited at the time — Baba Bleecher, a longtime member of New York’s couture world. “She was not given design credit for her dress at the time the ads were published,” her daughter-in-law wrote in 2013. giving a name to at least one of the fashion designers whose looks were featured so prominently in national print magazines.