Fashion in the 1950’s : The highlights

The main factors during the 1950s that influenced the fashion of the times

During the 1950s, the United States of America, recovering fastly from the great depression of the 1930s, started to emerge as the world’s strongest military power; it was also on its path to economical supremacy.

Around the world, especially countries in the western hemisphere, a consumer revolution was underway and this reflected in the fashion of the times. Everything was almost perfect.

It was a time when fashion catering to teenagers emerged for the first time, as did many of the fashion trends that later developed full-fledged. Clothing styles of 1950s followed the political and social changes of the period. 

Influencers of the period -1950s

Classic movies like Wizard of Oz and Cinderella were blockbusters but equally popular was color TV shows. The notable fashion designers of the period were Christian Dior, Pierre Balmain, Hubert de Givenchy, Coco Chanel, and Cristobal Balenciaga.

During this decade actresses Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Elizabeth Taylor, singer Elvis Presley, and actors James Dean, Gregory Peck, and Marlon Brando, model Betty Page and their fashion styles caught the imagination of the general public in a big way. Magazines like Vogue and Women’s Weekly introduced fashion to the public. 

Some other notable persons who influenced the fashion of the decade include English Actress Joan Collins, American Socialite Mona Bismark, Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, Mexican socialite and fashion icon Gloria Guiness, Fashion Icon and socialite Nancy Slim Keith, Baroness Pauline de Rothschild, French-American Fashion columnist Diana Vreeland, American Singer Actress Doris Day, Paris editor of American Harper’s Bazaar Daisy Fellowes, American Socialite Barbara Babe Paley, English Actress Diana Dores, and Stage Actress Lucy Douglas C.Z. Guest.

If you follow the styles of these celebrities the fashion of the 1950s can be decoded perfectly. 

Most important characteristics of the clothing style of 1950s

Casual macho style for men

Simple loose suits and trousers, fedoras and derby hats consisted the formal wear for men but the most distinguishing feature of this period was the relaxed casual dressing style for men.

The movie “The wild one” released in 1954 starring Marlon Brando and “Rebel without a cause” starring James Dean influenced youth to adopt a casual style that included skinny jeans, leather jackets, boots, and a greasy hair look (people who adopted this style was called greasers in the US). These and layers of t-shirts and shirts, hats, and studded belts became the new cool. Men wore cowboy-inspired clothes – denim shirts with Bandannas tucked into the neck.

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The gray flannel suit worn by Gregory Peck in his movie (The man in the gray flannel suit) was also quite popular.

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Teddy Boys refers to a British fashion style that copied the Edwardian (Teddy) clothing style with drainpipe trousers and a loose jacket.

Modest, Feminine and Demure look for women

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Everything was modest, even the swimwear. Swimsuits that were like corsets emphasizing tiny waists and high busts, Beehive hairstyles all were the rage during this period.

Skirt length was modest and below the knee. But by the middle of the decade, women began to sport shorter hemlines.

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The dresses of the early period of the decade emphasized the feminine tiny waist look. The collection “New look” by Christian Dior influenced this fashion.

Then Yves Saint Laurent introduced the A-line silhouette with the trapeze dress, which was a total change from the cinched waist style of Christian Dior (who passed away in 1957).

The dress styles that were popular were the shift dress, empire line dress (baby doll dress), sack dress, sheath dress, and the shirt waister dress. A sheath dress with matching bolero was a popular combination. For a party, the 1950s lady would wear a pretty circle dress or a sheath dress with an equally pretty purse. The dresses were mostly brightly colored with floral, abstract and striped patterns.

Women also wore trousers as casual wear. Parallel to the feminine look, a boyish style emerged with cigaratte pants and simple sleeveless tops or simple jumpers.

You can have a look at the pictures of clothing during the 1950s in this Pinterest board.

A very detailed write up on fashion in the 1950s can be found on the Florida Institute of Technology website here.

Related posts :Books to learn about vintage fashionEvolution of fashion through history ; Modern Dressing styles; Clothing fashion in the 1920s; Fashion and styles in the 1930s; What women wore in the 1950s; Clothing styles in the 1960s; Fashion in the 1970s; Fashion in the 1980s ; Fashion in the 1990s.; Fashion in the 2000s

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.
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