Fifties fashion was a festival of glamour and luxury with its designs, fabrics, and accessories the main course. No longer bound by war-time constraints and moderation, the 1950s emerged as an era of unprecedented change and innovation.
Interest in this retro look and lifestyle has experienced a revival with major stars photographed in haute couture garments by Balenciaga and Givenchy. That special wedding gown or perfect prom dress is often selected from consignment shops or the increasingly popular vintage fashion websites.
Join Living Fifties Fashion as we examine and celebrate the excitement and seduction that was the Fabulous Fifties.
What We Wore
As a baby boomer, my memories of 1950s clothing are women dressed in shirtwaist dresses and adorned with hats and gloves. Our mothers wore pencil skirted suits with peep toed and high heeled shoes. My mother wore Capri pants and sleeveless blouses with the last few buttons unfastened and the shirt tails tied in the front. Just like Audrey Hepburn.
Proms and Cotillions were elaborate affairs with months long planning and preparation.
Back then, “foundation” referred to ladies undergarments and a good foundation was a fifties fashion necessity. Bullet bras and a well constructed waist cincher girdle were needed to pull off the popular sweater girl or Dior New Look fashions
Acceptable 50s fashion for the sock hop included a circle skirt with appliquéd poodles or kittens. A white petticoat completed the look. Standard footwear for girls was saddle shoes and bobby socks. The greaser look for boys allowed them to look as cool as James Dean or Marlon Brando.
Thanks to Coco Chanel and American Fashion Designer Hattie Carnegie, the ladies never left home without their costume jewelry. They wore clip on ear bobs with matching three strand necklaces that mimicked real emeralds, rubies, and pearls. Even their cat eye glasses had rhinestones.
Who Dressed Us
Coming out of the austere 1940s, fifties couturiers turned their talents towards the glamour and allure women coveted. The woman’s form was exaggerated with a cinched waistline and full skirt as the world embraced couture fashions created for the hour-glass figure. Today’s designers continue to emulate the vintage couture from the fifties.
American Fashion Designers flourished post-war as they not only brought mid-century consumers couture fashions but the ready-to-wear clothing and styles that would become the standard.
How We Looked
Retro hairstyles from the fifties ran the gamut from the long and loosely-waved Rita Hayworth look to the smoothly-rounded Liz Taylor bubble cut. The fifties were a time of Bobbi pin curled hair, thinly shaped and penciled-in eyebrows, and cigarettes dangling from Theater Red rouged lips.
As television’s popularity escalated, Hollywood countered with spectacular productions that made screen legends of their prized actors and actresses. Stars were contracted to a film studio and obligated to appear at award ceremonies and photography events.
Fifties cowboy movies and TV westerns were the fifties era main attraction with an allegiance formed for our favorites.
The big band era of the forties gave way to a new sound. While crooners Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin remained popular, rock and roll ruled and Elvis was the King. Kids danced around the local hangout jukebox to Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy Holly tunes and American Bandstand became a hit that lasted three decades. The popularity of Carl Perkins, Bill Haley and His Comets, and Johnny Cash sparked the fifties fashion craze that is today’s Rockabilly hair and style.
Half a century later, young and old alike are enamored with the fifties. Take a peek through Living-Fifties-Fashion pages and see if you don’t fall in love with this era as well.
We look forward to hearing what you think.