How to Modernize '50s Fashion

Written by grace riley
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How to Modernize '50s Fashion
Wearing '50s clothing doesn't have to make you look like you're wearing a costume. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Current fashion often draws inspiration from the past. The 1950s are a significant influence presently, thanks in no small part to the television program "Mad Men," which has made the aesthetic of the late-'50s and early '60s trendy again. Still, as inspiring as '50s fashion is, wearing a head-to-toe vintage ensemble looks more like a costume than high fashion. When wearing vintage clothes (or vintage-inspired clothes) mixing the vintage with contemporary details can help create a more modern look.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Full-shirted dress
  • Beaded cardigan
  • Framed handbag
  • Costume jewellery
  • Jeans
  • T-shirt
  • Flats

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  1. 1

    Select just one piece of vintage clothing to wear. It does not take much to evoke an aesthetic like that of the '50s, and one article of clothing can do that. You'll want to incorporate the vintage finds into your wardrobe naturally. You can do this by pairing vintage pieces with contemporary jeans, a chic little blazer or trench-inspired jacket, or by incorporating a T-shirt into your ensemble.

  2. 2

    Slip into a classic, full-skirted, '50s-style dress, but add a contemporary jacket or belt. Wearing a cropped black motorcycle jacket with a feminine, full-skirted dress has been a significant trend in the 2010s, according to Remember that your hair and make-up are also a part of the look. Style your hair in a modern way to balance the retro look of the dress. For instance, you can offset an ultra-feminine dress with straight, tousled hair worn down.

  3. 3

    Incorporate a beaded cardigan into your wardrobe. This item can be worn so many different ways, you'll never run out of modern ensembles with which to couple it. Nothing evokes the '50s aesthetic like a cardigan or twinset. Add the cardigan to a T-shirt and jeans. Replace the blazer of a three-piece suit with a beaded cardigan, or use it as a chic cover-up at the beach instead of a generic, cotton sundress.

  4. 4

    Add a piece of '50s costume jewellery to an otherwise-modern ensemble. Wear a short necklace made of large, faceted beads or a rhinestone-bedecked bracelet. Broaches were especially trendy during the 1950s, note the editors of, and adding one would be an eye-catching and welcome detail for many modern outfits.

  5. 5

    Carry a framed handbag. Framed handbags are purses with a metal frame holding the purse material in a box shape. They typically have one handle across the top that is too short to wear on the shoulder. Many purses made today still come in this eternal style. Carrying a modern update of a '50s classic is another great way to modernise the 50s aesthetic.

  6. 6

    Finish the ensemble with a cute pair of flats. Another way to modernise vintage style is to wear something with the silhouette of a vintage piece, but which is made of modern elements. As noted in the "L.A. Times," ladylike ballet flats were the shoes to wear in mid-20th-century America. Wearing a modern pair will evoke the '50s aesthetic while keeping the overall look from going overboard.

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