Fashion History: Women’s Clothing of the 1950s

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Dolores’s curiosity in development historic previous dates from her teenage years when traditional apparel was broadly on the market in thrift retailers.

A 1950s clothing ad.

A Fifties garments advert.

Studying: Ladies’s trend 1950’s

Digital Comedian Museum; Fox Characteristic Syndicate; wikimedia commons; CCA

Ladies’s fashions of the Fifties mirrored a classy combination of conservatism and glamour—a girl-next-door freshness along with alluring femininity. Ladies who had lived via the privations of the Nice Despair and World Warfare II had been now able to afford new varieties and embraced all of them, from the magnificence of grand, sweeping skirts to shorts and trousers.

An hourglass decide dominated the look of the Fifties. With cinched-in waistlines and accentuated hips and busts, the style was a decidedly mature one.

Regardless of the mature, conservative look of major designers, a model new feeling for casual attire crept onto the scene, as ladies an increasing number of began to placed on pants, shorts, sportswear, and shoulder-revealing sundresses.

Hallmarks of Fifties Trend

  • An hourglass decide predominated
  • Skirts had been large with crinolines or slim pencil skirts
  • Ladies an increasing number of wore trousers
  • Shirtwaist garments had been trendy
  • Hats and gloves on a regular basis worn for robe or enterprise
1950s housewife

Fifties housewife

Arthur: Tetra Pak on wikimedia (CCA)

Historic Context for Fifties Trend

Within the Fifties, monetary useful properties created a model new consumer-driven society and enabled a family to remain pretty comfortably on one income. Ladies who had taken manufacturing facility work all through World Warfare II cease or had been fired. As people strove for a conservative simplicity, the housewife grew to turn out to be the feminine excellent of the day. Although the suburban life-style may seem shallow to some, and restrictive for ladies, it must be remembered that for twenty years people had been residing in concern of poverty, and they also had merely emerged from the staggering losses of World Warfare II.

The underlying concern of the nuclear bomb, the changes wrought by the Civil Rights Motion, and the perhaps overblown menace of communism took a backseat to a yearning for the simple, idealized life depicted in mass media. Tv reworked leisure and the data, influencing developments and depicting trendy homemakers.

The New Look. Sketch by Dolores Monet

The New Look. Sketch by Dolores Monet

The New Look

Christian Dior launched the New Look in 1947. With its tight cinched waist, billowing skirt, and pronounced bust line, the New Look recalled historic kinds of the mid-Nineteenth century and set the tone for the next decade.

Large skirts needed the help of petticoats product of nylon mesh. Hoops, or crinoline cages, a relic of the 1850s, had been launched once more. Generally, petticoats confirmed beneath the skirt hem, trimmed in pretty colors.

Clothes varieties all through the battle years had featured uninteresting colors, squared shoulders, and a minimal use of material and gildings on account of wartime restrictions. The New Look equipped a model new opulence and a model new check out femininity.

Nylon mesh petticoat.A wide skirt worn without a crinoline for a draped look.

Nylon mesh petticoat.

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Pencil Skirts and Large Skirts

Tailor-made suits appeared very feminine, with tight waists and accentuated hips. Although Coco Chanel launched her further comfortable, practically boxy, swimsuit, relieved by a shirt with a pussycat bow, the prolonged, slim look of a nipped-in waist and slender skirt remained a popular silhouette.

For day placed on and casual occasions, a big skirt was worn with out the huge crinolines, for a fragile, draped look. Shirtwaist garments,sometimes worn by TV housewives, had been a popular numerous to the additional exaggerated varieties.

Halter-topped garments had been a casual numerous for the seaside, or for summer season cookouts and occasions.

1955: a bold print.

1955: a daring print.

Infrigmat on wikimedia commons (CCA)

Learn extra: Trend Nova Fb

After the austere colors of the Nineteen Forties, prints acquired right here once more in an enormous method. From stripes to florals, prints sometimes appeared in colors on a white background.

  • Wild floral skirts, similar to the one above, contrasted with a plain-colored, short-sleeved knit excessive.
  • Stripes of each sort appeared, from daring black-and-white horizontals to skinny black or darkish blue stripes on a light-weight background, sometimes worn with 3/4-length sleeves.
  • Polka dots confirmed up in contrasting colors, like crimson on white (and vice versa), or darkish blue and white, or white on white with nubby or textured dots.
  • Embroidered designs and appliqués had been sometimes featured near the hem of a big skirt. A felt poodle appliqué grew to turn out to be the enduring picture of 50s trend and is usually worn at current for 50s occasions or for Halloween.

Gown circa 1954

Deutsche Fotothek/ Rossing (CCA)

Material and Expertise of the Fifties

New advances in mass manufacturing allowed for further garments to be manufactured at higher tempo and in higher quantity than ever sooner than. As manufacturing tempo elevated, garments grew to turn out to be further fairly priced, and off-the-rack producers hurried to repeat the designs of excessive trend.

Material Varieties

Nylon, no longer needed for wartime parachutes, grew to turn out to be a development staple used to make hose, lingerie, blouses, and sportswear.

Although cotton was nonetheless a popular choice for summer season garments, Dacron and rayon diminished ironing chores with their no-wrinkle textures. Laundry chores grew to turn out to be easier with the model new drip-dry garments. The brand new material blends included two-way stretch provides that equipped decide administration for swimwear.

Artificial fibers and blends cut back into the wool commerce’s market share whereas releasing buyers from pesky moths that, beforehand, could destroy wool garments saved throughout the closet.

Woman in shorts 1952

Lady in shorts 1952

Harry Paulson on the John Oxley Library of Queensland (Public Area)

Ladies in Pants

When ladies pulled on pants to work throughout the factories all through World Warfare II, they discovered a model new kind of freedom and luxurious. From unfastened hostess pants to tight knit slacks and temporary shorts, trousers made inroads into ladies’s fashions.

The side zipper was a popular closure as a result of it left a straightforward entrance and appeared dressier than front-zipped jeans. Straps hooked as much as the hems of slacks pulled wrinkles of the fabric, for a shiny, tapered look.

Ladies at home or on the seaside wore temporary shorts with tucked-in blouses, or shirts tied on the midriff. Pedal pushers ended slightly below the knee, whereas Capri pants ended on the lower calf, in a casual however delicate trend. However for robe occasions open air the home, for going downtown or to church, garments had been nonetheless a ought to.

Little hats and summer gloves

Little hats and summer season gloves

Deutsche Fotothek (CCA)

Equipment of the Fifties

  • Gloves. A well-dressed girl wore gloves and a hat open air the home for all nonetheless basically essentially the most casual occasions. Lengthy, elbow-length gloves appeared for formal and night time placed on with short-sleeved garments or strapless robes. Quick gloves labored with suits or long-sleeved garments and had been moreover worn in hotter months.
  • Hats. The New Look premiered beneath wide-brimmed garden-style hats. However smaller hats prevailed for most of the Fifties. Tidy little hats adorned with veils had been trendy and acquired right here in an assortment of colors, sometimes pastels for spring and summer season.
  • Glasses grew to turn out to be a development assertion and featured new designs similar to the cat’s-eye trend with flared, pointed edges. Frames acquired right here in every kind of colors.
  • Jewellery was conventional and understated. Pearls or faux pearls had been the enduring necklace of the Fifties. Plastic pop beads had been a popular costume accent. Slim watches and subdued rings, along with clip-on earrings, had been conservative and trendy.
  • Footwear. Excessive heels worn for dressy occasions had rounded toes, sometimes with peep-toes. However a model new sense of comfort crept into ladies’s footwear. Espadrilles had been a popular choice for seaside and journey placed on. Tennis footwear had been worn throughout the home and yard and acquired right here in straightforward varieties for max comfort. Saddle oxfords, a relic of the Nineteen Forties, had been trendy with the youthful set, sometimes paired with temporary socks known as bobby socks.


A correctly dressed girl wore a variety of undergarments along with a bra and panties. A bra added bust help and helped create the hour glass decide that was the style of the day. Slips had been worn beneath pencil skirts whereas petticoats helped to handle the type of a New Look trend skirt.

Garter belts supported nylon stockings. For casual placed on, socks had been worn with pants. Youngsters wore temporary socks known as Bobby socks with New Look trend skirts.

To protect the tiny waist needed to look good in most varieties, ladies wore girdles. A girdle could match barely above the waist or just to the waistline. Some girdles extended proper right down to the thigh. Girdles had been worn with garments, skirts, and pants to create a straightforward, slim look.

Short hair was often worn curled.

Quick hair was sometimes worn curled.

wikimedia commons (CCA)


  • Lengthy hair, sometimes worn by youthful girls, was drawn up into ponytails, or pulled proper right into a French twist for formal occasions.
  • The Italian cut back featured temporary, unfastened curls for a complicated however free look.
  • Bangs, worn with every temporary and longer hairstyles, had been worn temporary and curled.
  • The net web page boy was a medium measurement trend that was shiny with the ends turned beneath.
  • Black ladies and white ladies with very curly hair sometimes had their hair chemically straightened or used scorching combs for a shiny look.
  • The bouffant and bubble cut back relied on teasing (once more combing) and hairspray to handle a poufy hair trend.

Influential Trend Designers of the Fifties

Whereas Christian Dior gave begin to 50s development collectively together with his New Look in 1947, many alternative designers influenced the final decade.

  • Clare McCardell, an American designer, had launched a casual country-girl look to garments throughout the 40’s using denim and gingham. She continued to design garments all by way of the 50’s.
  • Cristóbal Balenciaga gave us the three/4 measurement sleeve. His designs equipped a looser trend that launched ladies from stiffly structured tailored garments. Combining a unfastened coat with a pencil skirt created a novel new look. His 1957 sack robe and never utilizing a waistline superior into the shift-style robe that grew to turn out to be so trendy throughout the Sixties.
  • Hubert de Givenchy was well-known for creating garments for his favorite muses Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy. He entered the Paris couture scene at an early age with designs primarily based totally on separates with a youthful attraction.
  • Coco Chanel reestablished herself as a designer after World Warfare II with wearable garments. Her boxy suits with contrasting trim, worn with a fragile shirt adorned by a pussy-cat bow, had been created for ease of movement. In 1955, she launched her signature quilted purse with a gilt chain strap; it’s nonetheless trendy.

Learn extra: Finest 80s Trend Traits For Ladies – 20 Outfit Concepts

Coco Chanel as quickly as famously said, “Trend fades, solely fashion stays the identical.”

Audrey Hepburnfashion-history-womens-clothing-of-the-1950s

Audrey Hepburn

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Fifties Trend Icons

Film stars stood as development icons of the 50s, carrying garments on and off the movie set created for them by development designers.

  • Audrey Hepburn, whose look impressed Givenchy, created an air of youthful grace. Along with her slim decide, unusual in a time that celebrated a mature hour-glass silhouette, Audrey grew to turn out to be a development icon nonetheless admired and copied at current.
  • Grace Kelly‘s conventional garments trend acquired right here all through splendidly in motion pictures like Rear Window. Her elegant however pure trend mirrored an inside magnificence. Hermes created the well-known Kelly bag for the actress-turned-princess with the intention to guard her “child bump” from the press.
  • Barbara Billingsley, or as a result of the world is conscious of her, June Cleaver, was a housewife who wore pencil skirts and pearls to wash her home. The long-lasting 50s TV mother is likely to be seen in reruns for a superb check out how ladies had been supposed to brighten.
  • Doris Day symbolized a healthful, girl-next-door magnificence blended with a perky kind of sensuality and was sometimes portrayed in motion pictures and movie magazines carrying the casual garments varieties that grew to turn out to be so trendy throughout the 50s.

Film Poster from Humorous Face

(Public space) on wikimedia commons

Various Trend

“Beatnik” was the title coined to elucidate a gaggle of intellectuals, artists, and poets throughout the Fifties. Very similar to bohemians of various eras, the beatniks stood in the direction of mass consumerism and the conservative beliefs of the day.

Feminine beatniks rejected development developments and wore their hair prolonged and pure. They didn’t use make-up. Not like the bohemians (and later hippies) who carried out with historic varieties and garments concepts, the beatniks wore trendy garments in an austere methodology.

Beatniks had been sometimes portrayed in media as cute, humorous characters who wore black turtlenecked shirts and carried out bongos. Within the movie Humorous Face, Audrey Hepburn portrayed a beatnik kind of girl who labored in a bookstore.

Grace Kelly (above) has all of it: wasp waist, pearls, gloves, hair curled on the ends.

For Additional Studying

Encyclopedia of Clothes and Trend; Edited by Valene Steele; Scribner Library

Fashions of a Decade – The Fifties; Patricia Baker; Chelsea Home; London; 2006

The Fifties; David Halberstam; Ballantine Books; Random Home; New York; 1993

Trendy Clothes From the Sears Catalogs Mid Fifties by Tina Skinner

Trendy Clothes From the Sears Catalogs Early Fifties by Need Smith

Trendy Clothes From the Sears Catalogs Late Fifties by Pleasure Shih

Questions & Solutions

Query: The place can I get plus measurement traditional clothes?

Reply: Classic plus-sized clothes are onerous to hunt out. In frequent, American ladies are taller and heavier than they’d been beforehand. American ladies weigh fifteen kilos larger than they did twenty years prior to now with 68% carrying measurement 14 or above. Whereas the frequent high was 5’3″ and weight 140 kilos within the Nineteen Sixties, at the moment American girls common 5’4″ tall and 168 kilos.

When I was a skinny youthful issue, I had trouble discovering traditional garments that match accurately on account of being tall and significantly broad-shouldered., so that you wouldn’t have to be a plus-size to have trouble discovering older garments that match accurately.

Some traditional retailers attempt to provide larger sized traditional garments on account of demand. There are some on-line web sites like Ballyhoo Classic Clothes which presents plus-sized traditional robe from the Nineteen Thirties via the Sixties. Etsy presents larger sized traditional garments, significantly garments from the Seventies.

Berriez, a traditional retailer in Brooklyn, New York sells plus measurement traditional on its Instagram account. Additionally check out Belen’s Linens, Blue Velvet Classic, and Bloomers and Frocks.

You can also seek for retro or traditional trend, new garments made to appear like exact traditional. In case you’re in search of the particular issue, real earlier garments, be careful whilst you retailer on-line. Many web sites make it appear to be the garments is certainly earlier when it’s a replica or primarily based totally on traditional garments.

Learn extra: All The Issues You Wore Throughout A ’90s Summer time

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