Fashion and Clothing for Teenagers in the 1950s

Written by simon fuller
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Fashion and Clothing for Teenagers in the 1950s
The 1950s saw clothing manufacturers take note of the new teenage market. (Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

The very concept of the teenager became a new thing in the 1950s. Whereas before, adolescents were expected simply to follow in their parents' footsteps, youth in the 1950s began to break away from that tradition, and evolved their own stylistic trends in the process. This led to a number of distinctive fashions appearing during the decade, many of which are recognisable today, having been celebrated by film and television.

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Influences

Influences on teenage fashions in the 1950s included many of the music icons of the time, such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley, pioneers of the rock 'n' roll genre. Hollywood stars such as Marlon Brando also made a big impact on teen fashions because of the way they dressed.

Perhaps a greater influence on the way in which teenagers dressed, whatever specific trend they followed, was that clothing industries began to accommodate adolescents as a separate audience from adults and younger children. This was a result of shifting expectations of youth and of the booming U.S. economy, which led to changes in the fashion industry that sought to appeal to teens.

Teen Boys

A few key looks dominated the male teen demographic in the 1950s. Among them was the so-called James Dean look, inspired by the legendary actor and his contemporary, Marlon Brando. This rebel look consisted of jeans, a white T-shirt and leather boots, and sometimes featured a biker jacket. Similarly, hair was inspired by Elvis Presley, particularly slicking back the hair and leaving a stray lock on the forehead. Other teen boys joined the teddy boy movement, wearing narrow trousers with pointed shoes and tailored jackets.

Teen Girls

Teen girls were still expected to dress reasonably smartly in public, typically with blouses and skirts or full-skirted dresses which covered the knee or at least the mid-knee. For sitting around the home and in other casual circumstances, 1950s teen girls were likely to be seen in dungarees, similar to jeans adopted by many later in the 20th century, and blouses. For dances, girls often turned out in cap-sleeved blouses and wide skirts, decorated with a variety of patterns, while party dresses often had petticoats built in and featured print patterns.

Make-up

Girls often wore full lipstick, in a range of pastel colours; as described by the Fifties Fashion website, typical lipstick names included "Snow Ball Of Fire" and "Honey Pastel." Teens generally followed the soft and creamy-skinned look of older women, applying foundation, but only a minimal amount of blush and eye shadow.

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