The war was over, the men were home, they had money, and 1950s fashion was at the top of the wish list. Rationing of goods was no longer necessary and fifties women wanted luxurious textiles and the same celebrity fashions seen in Vogue magazine. In response to fifties consumers demands, Dior’s “New Look” design was introduced.
Although the voluminous skirts and softly sumptuous fabrics were in contrast to the straight skirts made of lightweight wools or gabardines worn during the war time fabric conserving age, the two designs coalesced into an era of phenomenal 50s dress style.
Note the hats, heels, costume jewelry, and gloves accompanying each outfit in this collection of popular vintage style dresses. This is the 1950s clothing I remember.
Whether they were going to a PTA meeting, a bridge party with friends, or just to the neighborhood market, the vintage style clothing fifties ladies chose the most consisted of pencil suits or shirtwaist dresses, stockings, gloves, and hats. Floral, polka-dots, or cherry printed fabrics were favorite choices for day wear.
Fifties halter dresses featured form fitting bodices with straps around the neck allowing the bosom to be accentuated. The most famous of these was the provocative gown Travilla designed for Marilyn Monroe for her role in “The Seven Year Itch.”
Classic pencil dresses were appreciated on fashion runways, sought after in major department stores, and sewn by fifties housewives. The female form was emphasized with an open neck, cinched waist, and narrow hip.
A fashion trend that continues today began when fifties designers introduced their polka dot lines. Movie and television costumers began to dress their stars in the popular spotted fabrics with Lucy’s TV closets full of polka dot dresses.
The most enduring of all 50s dress styles would have to be the Chanel inspired sheath dress. A shapely silhouette was celebrated in the waist nipping and hip hugging 1950s style that has remained a fashion designer favorite and wardrobe staple for decades. The Little Black Dress is usually a sheath style.
The requisite undergarment in every girl’s lingerie closet included the crinoline slip. We called them can can slips. Whether worn under a frilly cotillion dress or the ever popular poodle skirt, the crinoline completed the 1950s fashion look.
Shirtwaist dress ensembles gave tribute to Dior’s New Look design. They featured a tight waist and bodice, full skirts, and were often made of cotton or silk fabrics. Simplicity and McCall’s shirtwaist patterns were frequently sold in women’s magazines. How many times did you see Lucy and Ethel dressed in this versatile fashion staple?
The fifties were a time of perpetual dress up and an era of special occasion outfits. Evening cocktail parties were common as well as proms, galas, and cotillions. Television and print advertising brought fifties ladies all the latest designs and fashions. The 1950s were also the beginning of exquisite wedding gowns with brides to be anxiously awaiting the latest wedding dress trend.
Underneath the chic couture suits, dresses, and evening wear was the equally stunning retro lingerie. Bullet bras, open bottom girdles, seamed and seamless stockings were the foundation of all the fabulous 1950s fashions.
New technology allowed fifties swimwear to become fashionable. These rubberized fabrics and threads gave fifties women the freedom to actually swim yet look sensational poolside.
Today’s fashion industry is once again bowing to the demand for the still popular look with vintage dress shops and online websites offering polka dot dresses, corsets, crinolines and other 1950s fashion favorites.