People were more affluent in the 1950s after the Depression and World War II. New synthetic fibres were being introduced and TV programs were having a heavy influence on fashion, as were film stars. At the beginning of the 1950s, children wore clothes similar to their parents' clothes, but by the end of the decade, fashion was rapidly changing.
Young boys wore short trousers up until they were about 11, and then switched to long trousers. They wore patterned sweaters over shirts and polished leather shoes. Boys wore suits and neckties for church and visiting. Jeans, called dungarees, started to come into fashion, so boys wore those if their parents permitted. Teenage boys wore buttoned shirts, trousers and sweaters. Sneakers became more popular for leisure wear, and jeans and collarless shirts became more popular with teenage boys by the end of the decade.
Girls wore cotton dresses with full skirts and fitted bodices in the 1950s. The dresses had cap or puffed sleeves and knee-length skirts. These were worn with bobby socks and saddle shoes or loafers. A "poodle" skirt and blouse with a cardigan was the alternative. A poodle skirt was a full, swingy skirt of a solid bold colour with an appliquéd design -- a French poodle, a flamingo, a flower or a hot rod. Hemlines were to the knee or just below it. Girls had party dresses, often handmade by their mothers, which were passed down to their sisters. These tended to be frilly, with lace at the neck and sleeves and embellishments on the bodice.
Acrylics, nylon and rayon were introduced in the 1950s. They washed and dried easily, saving housewives some time. However, some of the fabrics were uncomfortable to wear because they produced static and heat. Cotton and wool were still the main fabrics in kids' clothes.
Popular Culture Influences
Rock-and-roll idols including Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis and film stars James Dean and Marlon Brando set fashion styles for more adventurous teenage boys of the 1950s. They inspired the "rebel" outfit of tight jeans, white T-shirt and leather jacket. Teenage girls copied the French look of Capri pants with a blouse tied at the waist à la Brigitte Bardot and imitated Audrey Hepburn's tight pedal pushers and neck scarf.