How to Dress in the 1950's Fashion
After World War II, there were some major fashion changes. The 1940's silhouette
had wide shoulders and a short skirt, but the
1950's styles were hourglass in shape (fitted body with small shoulder, small waistline, full skirt (or thin skirt) and higher heels).
At the end of the decade, a newer fashion look was becoming popular, later made popular by Jackie Kennedy.
1. Find a fitted blouse; quarter length sleeves are okay. The shoulder should be fitted, not puffy. Jackets were very fitted, with more rounded shoulders. They were hemmed at the hip level. Collars were often small and rounded, like Peter Pan. There were many types of decorative pockets and buttons on jackets in the 1950's.
2. Choose the type of skirt, (but make sure it 'matches' the blouse). Skirts were full (circle, gathered, pleated or gored), but some were narrow and straight. Swing Skirts that were knee high were also popular, along with the poodle skirt. In the early 50's the hemline was very long--usually mid-calf. Later the hems would rise to just below the knee. Some women wore petticoats to make the skirts very full, others wore their skirts without petticoats. Wide belts help to make the waistline look even smaller. The poodle skirt and the pencil skirt were the most popular.
3. Try a shirt dress. Dresses: shirt dresses were popular. These had a shirt-like bodice, with a gathered skirt. A narrow belt was worn. Other dresses had fitted bodices with straight or narrow skirts. Solid fabric, plaids, prints and stripes were all popular. Colors were bright. Princess-line dresses were also popular (having seamlines from shoulder to hem for a smooth fit). Often these had empire or raised waistlines. Shorter jackets were worn with the empire dresses.
4. Realize that further into the decade, styles changed. After 1955: the 'A' line look (narrow shoulder to wide hem) became popular. Looser fit dresses were also seen. Sac (or Sack) dresses were loose and baggy. At this time the hemline was near the knee. Jackets became 'boxy' and the 'Chanel' look or suit was worn. This had contrast trim around the jacket edges, no collar, small pockets with contrast buttons.
5. Get the right type of pants/trousers. Pants: the legs became narrow during the 50's. Pants were very popular and worn at home and leisure. The Capri was mid-calf length, peddle pusher was a long short, and Bermuda shorts were knee length. These were worn with flat shoes, ballet-type flats, and simple Keds. Socks were optional.
6. Be sure your accessories match the 'timing' of the rest of your outfit. Accessories: small hats were popular, but during the latter years 'flower pot' hats were seen. These were bigger and higher in shape. Gloves of all colors were worn with dresses. Shoes often had pointed toes and thin heels. Handbags grew smaller, often envelope in shape. The 'Kelley' bag was a simple hand bag with handle. Early in the 50's hairstyles were short and close (Audrey Hepburn), but later became larger and bouffant (Liz Taylor).
7. Menswear: suits were becoming more narrow--with narrow pants, and a Sack coat shape (Brooks Brother's suit). Charcoal grey was popular. A white shirt was usually worn with this grey suit, along with a plain, narrow tie. Hats were loosing popularity as the car made it difficult to wear when driving. Khaki pants and plaid shirts or button-down collared oxford cloth shirts were seen on students. Jeans were for outdoors or teen wear. "T" shirts were seldom worn alone, being an undershirt. Bermuda shorts, Hawaiian shirts and box shirts were worn in the summer. Hair was worn short, in a post-military style.
* Use hair spray to get the look of a 'big hair' style
* Wear a 'waist cincher' or girdle to get a smaller waistline.
* Research: look for 'Vogue', 'Bazaar', 'Ladies Home Journal' and 'McCall's
Magazine' at your library. Weekly magazines such
as 'Life' and 'Look' are also good for fashion ideas, especially men's wear.
* Sewing patterns: these are excellent for fashion looks, and include all
accessories that were worn with an outfit. Even hairstyles