1950s Women’s Fashion: History, Trends, Accessories

Al Amin

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The 1950s was the era of timeless iconic styles with dignified vintage clothing and sophisticated looks. Even to this day, the 1950s Women’s Fashion did not fail to inspire modern trends. Women such as Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, and Marilyn Monroe were the fashion trendsetters. Each of the clothes they wore caught the attention of most women and became the next big thing. 

Women wanted to go for the hourglass figure and this dominated most of the looks for the 50s. cinched-in waistlines and accentuated busts and hips were the top picks for mature women. Major designers went for the conservative, mature looks but the appeal of casual attire crept onto women as they started choosing pants, sportswear, shorts, and shoulder-revealing sundresses. 

When you are learning about fashion in the 50s, there is a lot to know about because there are various fashion choices. The trendsetters in the 50s were very influential and they continue to influence the fashion world in modern times. 

In this article, we will go through the 50s women’s fashion and how they used to carry them in their time. 

History of 1950s Women’s Fashion

Before the 50s, women used to work in factories during the war but later were fired or quit their jobs. As the 1950s started, economic gains started a new consumer-driven society and allowed families to live more comfortably even on one income. Back then, the suburban lifestyle was the trend even though it may seem shallow to some. But it is important to remember that World War 2 had just ended and people were living in fear of poverty for almost 20 years. 

1950s Women's Fashion
Historical Image of 1950s Women’s Fashion.

The underlying fear of the nuclear bomb made women live an idealized and simple life. With the help of television, trends were influenced which depicted fashionable homemakers. As a result, women started opting for more simple clothing which also meant prices also dropped. 

There are some iconic fashion trends in the 50s which are known for being from this era. In this part, we will talk about some of them. 

Big and Pencil Skirts

For the daily, a wide skirt was worn without the large crinolines to provide a draped, soft appearance. A big skirt with a simple design pattern was preferred because it looks better to wear as daywear or for casual situations. Shirtwaist dresses could be seen on TV worn by TV housewives, this became a more popular alternative to the over-exaggerated styles. 

Big and Pencil Skirts.  
Image of Big and Pencil Skirts.

Tailored skirts appear more feminine with accentuated hips and tight waists. However, Coco Chanel introduced a comfortable, almost boxy suit that is relieved by a blouse with a pussycat bow. But the slim long look of a nipped-in waist and narrow skirt still was a popular silhouette and was mostly preferred by women. Christian Dior introduced the classic modern pencil skirt for his 1954 Autumn winter collection. For this, the pencil skirt gained a lot of popularity for mostly office wear. 

Pants

When women started wearing pants to work in the factories during the war, they found a new kind of comfort. As a result, from loose hostess pants to tight-knit short shorts and slacks, trousers made the way for women’s fashions. Pant for women had a side zipper as it was a popular closure. Front zippers were not the ideal choice for women and the front zipper left a smooth front. Straps attached to the hems of slacks pulled wrinkles of the fabric to provide a tapered, sleek look. 

Pants in 1950s
Pants style in1950s

Women at the beach or at home would wear short shorts along with shirts tied at the midriff or tucked-in blouses. Capri pants ended at the lower but in a casual yet sophisticated style. As for pedal pushers they would end below the knee. For occasions outside the home, such as going to the church or downtown dresses were a must. 

Famous Prints of the 50s

The 40s had no prints only solid-colored clothes but prints came back in a big way in the 50s. Stripes, florals, and other prints made their way back in colors on a white background. The 50s were all about color and living out loud through clothes because women wanted to live vigorously after being under the shadows for the last twenty years. 

Famous Prints of the 50s. 
Image of A Famous Prints of the 50s

All types of stripes appeared from bold black-and-white horizontals to thin dark blue or black stripes on a light background. Other than this white on white with textured or nubby dots were also very common. Polka dots also showed up in contrasting colors such as red on white or vice versa. Wild and colorful floral skirts were paired with a plain-colored short-sleeved knit top. An iconic symbol of the 50s style has to be a felt poodle applique and it was mostly worn for parties or Halloween. 

Christian Dior’s New Look. 

The New Look was introduced to the fashion industry in 1947. It was a tight cinched waist, billowing skirt along with a pronounced bust line. The New Look recalled a lot of the Victorian historical styles of the mid-19th century and helped set the tone for the upcoming years. 

Christian Dior’s New Look. 
Image of Christian Dior’s New Look. 

The billowing skirts needed the support of nylon mesh petticoats. A relic of the 1850s, hoops or crinoline cages were brought back to go with the New Look. In some cases, the petticoats would peak underneath the skirt hem, to make it look fitting, the edges were trimmed in pretty colors. 

During the war years, clothing styles for men and women consisted of squared shoulders, minimal usage of fabric, few to no embellishments, and dull colors because of wartime limitations. Christian Dior’s New Look helped in offering a new look at femininity and opulence.

Accessories of 50s Fashion

1.    Jewelry – This was understated and classic. Faux or real pearls were the real deal and iconic necklaces of the 50s. slim watches or subdued rings along with clip-on earrings were considered elegant and conservative. 

Accessories of the 50s. 
Some Accessories of the 50s. 

2.    Gloves – For a sophisticated look, women wore gloves and a hat outside for casual occasions. Short-sleeved dresses or strapless gowns would be paired with a pair of long, elbow-length gloves in the evening. For suits or long-sleeved garments, short gloves worked fine.

3.    Hats – Tidy little hats with veils were very popular and came in a variety of colors, mostly pastels for summer and spring. 

4.    Shoes – High heels were a good choice for dressy occasions and had peep-toes. For the beach or vacation, espadrilles were a great option. Tennis shoes were worn around the garden and home and came in various simple styles to provide the most comfort. Saddle oxfords were paired with short socks also known as bobby socks. 

5.    Glasses – Cat’s eyeglasses with flared or pointed edges became a fashion statement. The frames could be found in a variety of colors. 

Final Words:
In the 50s, women’s fashion was much more revolutionary than it is today. That is because women were more eager to try out bold ideas after not having anything for almost 20 years prior. The 1950s Women’s Fashion continues to inspire a lot of fashion styles to this day. 

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