The history of mermaids dates back to 1000 BC. They were prevalent in Greek mythology. They are in 16th century British folklore and there are stories throughout both Eastern and Western Europe, so it’s no wonder that these fantasies perpetuate throughout time. We have the statute of the Littlest Mermaid at the entrance to Copenhagen harbor and in more modern times, Walt Disney’s fairytales of mermaids, pearls, oysters, and glitter seem whimsical, but the fashion crowd has claimed the look. From Chanel to Givenchy, these urban sirens get fresher, cleaner, and a little sexier as a fashion icon every year.
The mermaid dress style is especially associated with mid to late 1950s movie star glamor. Some female stars wore elegant mermaid gowns with feminine picture hats. Some mermaid dresses have thin, voluminous ruffles to accent the fishtail section. Other mermaid gowns feature a puffed out, rather than ruffled, fishtail. You can see just a sampling of these many styles of mermaid gowns at Pettipond made famous by such glamor queens as Jayne Mansfield, Eva Malloy, Gina Lollobrigida, and many others.
Sofia Vergara perhaps best displays the glamor of this fishtail look. A mermaid dress is a long gown that fits snug to the body until the bottom of the legs, where it flares out like a fish tail. For this reason, a mermaid gown is also called a fishtail dress. Since mermaid dresses are always long, they tend to be made in styles suitable for proms, weddings, and formal evening wear.
The flared fishtail section of a mermaid dress often begins above the knees. The ruffle it creates is soft and flowing if the dress is made from thinner fabric such as silk, satin, or taffeta. If mermaid dresses are made from thicker material, the fishtail is stiffer. The very shape of mermaid dresses — tight fitting to the figure until the flare at the knee — gives the gown style a dramatic, glamorous look.
Tall, thin figure types are best suited to the mermaid style as the style fits close to the body and accentuates the waist and hips. If worn with a corset, our body shapes often make this type of gown very attractive for the transgender woman, witness Ashleigh’s entry in our recent style contest wearing a gorgeous Panoply mermaid gown in royal blue. Since the mermaid dress is fitted at the waist and flares out at the leg, it adds the look of curves to lean and athletic body types.
Since the mermaid style is so dramatic and glamorous, the accessories worn with it should be also. For example, a fine chain necklace isn’t going to add the impact needed with this dress style; bolder necklaces such as elegant pearls would be a better choice.
Necklines vary widely in the mermaid type of dress. They may be square, V neck, halter or sweetheart. A sweetheart neckline dips slightly in the middle like the top of a heart. This type of neck is the most common in a mermaid dress style.