The 1950s were a decade of strong cultural development. Following the catastrophic event of the Great Depression and World War II, the 1950s marked a new era in popular culture with the rise of film actors, including James Dean and Marlon Brando, hip, bee-bop dancing and innovative music called rock 'n' roll. Party clothes in the 1950s mirrored these popular culture swings in many ways.
Sleek and strapless dresses were in vogue for women during the 1950s. Full dresses made of nylon puffed out at the bottom and were often paired with matching petticoats. A-line-style jackets were worn by women in cold weather. A-line jackets fit snugly from the neck and arms, down through the torso and expanded at the waist to accommodate the full dress. Men's tuxedos incorporated satin lapels and three bottoms at the bottom of each jacket sleeve. Tweed suit jackets were also formal wear options for men. Men's formal wear consisted of only several colours: blue, charcoal or brown.
The 1950s marked the first instance when average people could purchase party clothes that mimicked styles of first-class designers. Prom dresses were no exception. Girls, while dressed conservatively, wore satin gowns that accentuated the breasts and flowed openly from the waist down to the calves. Mink shawls accompanied the dresses. Sleek, linear, spaghetti-strapped dresses offered a European flair to prom night.
Girls and young women favoured poodle skirts during informal parties. The poodle skirt naturally twisted and flowed while dancing. Pencil skirts emphasised the shape of a female's legs, and mesh scarves were tied around the neck and in the hair for added colour and pizazz.
Boys and young men's casual party clothes amplified the "beatnik" notion of fashion. Influenced by the likes of Elvis Presley and James Dean, casual party attire included fitted blue jeans and tucked in, short- or long-sleeved cotton shirts. Casual wear for men included more of a variety in colours. Shirts, for example, may have included bright reds, pinks or checkered patterns. Leather motorcycle jackets were also emblematic of looking "cool" when arriving to a party.
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