Body Con Dress

Once again I struggled with the letter ‘Q’ so I have opted to post about the iconic Body Con Dress instead.

AKA: bandage dress

How to say it:  bod-ee con dress

Traditional Features: 

Body Con Dress

  • fits snuggly to the body to highlight the shape
  • made from stretch fabric
  • may have the signature ‘bandage’ look but not always
  • usually short

21st Century Body Con Dresses

Modern body con dresses are not all produced under the Hervé Léger label. Many, many labels have taken the style and made it their own, making the figure hugging dress available to the masses in a variety of styles, qualities and prices. However, the iconic ‘bandage’ look of the original will always be the ultimate in body con dressing.

Dorothy Perkins Herve Leger 2

Dorothy Perkins, Hervé Léger

Herve Leger Mango

Hervé Léger, MANGO

Origins…

…of the style: Ever since the beginning of fashion (and probably before) women have been aware of their bodies and have dressed in such a way as to flaunt or hide various parts as fashion dictated. Hooped skirts, panniers, s-bend corsets and other such contraptions have littered female fashion throughout the ages, and have all aided women in forcing their bodies into various shapes that were then draped in clothing designed to further enhance the figure. Essentially body con dressing in a different era.

The needless to say, body conscious dressing is not a new idea and the body con dress as we know it today, with its tight and stretchy, bandage like fabric that moulds seamlessly to the body to highlight the natural curves of the female figure, is not the first instance of a curve affirming style. Figure hugging, hour-glass inducing styles have been worn by fashionable women as far back as the 1930s (some sources argue that you can trace the body con look back to the Ancient Egyptians who wore figure hugging dresses, but for the sake of the modern style, I am going to stick to the 20th century history and beyond). The 1930s sheath dresses were generally longer and a little looser than the modern body con, due to the lack of elasticated fabrics, but were no less figure flaunting, and the popularisation of the bias-cut by Madeleine Vionnet created glamorous gowns that hugged the figure so closely that it is rumoured women refused to wear underwear with them so as not to disrupt the lines of the dress – old school body con.

In the 1940s, the sheath dress remained on trend, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that the style really came into its own. The introduction of stretch fabrics into the commercial market, combined with the popularity of pin-up girls and curvy movie stars like Marilyn Monroe and Bettie Page, kept the sheath dress on the forefront of fashion, with figure-hugging styles hitting the market designed to highlight small waists, voluptuous busts and curvy hips.

The 1960s saw the apply named ‘wiggle dress’ arrive in women’s fashion, as designers took the hour-glass silhouette and created form-fitting dresses in respectable fabrics that were suitable for every occasion – think Joan Harris in Mad Men. Slinky, figure hugging dresses were popular in the 70s in the form of psychedelic disco frocks that moved with the body on the dance floor.

And in the 80s the body con dress as we know it today began to take shape.

While designer Hervé Léger is most well-known for the body con style (aka the Bandage Dress) which he released in 1989, another designer – Azzedine Alaia (under whom Léger apparently trained) was also wrapping women in figure hugging stretch fabrics, creating dresses that look quite similar to the bandage dress – check here for some examples.

Regardless of who did it first, the body con dress hit fashion hard in the 1980s and 90s and women everywhere were eager to get their hands on the stretch wool or silk dresses that so effortlessly moulded to the figure and evened out all the bumps and lumps to produce a smooth hour-glass silhouette.

Léger’s iconic dress was produced from 1989 to 1997, after which the Hervé Léger brand was sold to BCBG and production of the dress halted. In 2008 the newly named ‘Bandage dress’ returned to production and as of 2014, is still going strong. As with any iconic style the original body con dress has been reimagined (and let’s be honest, copied) by other brands, from the high-end to the high street and women can now get a body con dress at any price. However, the smoothing, moulding abilities of the original shall never be surpassed, making the Hervé Léger Bandage dress the ultimate in body con style.

…of the name: The name ‘body con’ is short for body conscious and is used because of the tight, figure hugging fit of the style

The name bandage dress references the look of the Hervé Léger dress, which has many horizontal seams making the wearer look like they have been wrapped in a bandage

Random Facts

  • Hervé Léger’s first bandage dress was the finale dress in his 1989 show and was originally called the ‘bender dress’ as it moulded so perfectly to the female figure.
  • Hervé Peugnet, the designer behind the label Hervé Léger, was discovered by Karl Lagerfeld.

For more info on Body Con Dresses and Hervé Léger try here, here, or here

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