Women's Clothing From the 1950s

Written by lisa musser
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Women's Clothing From the 1950s
The elegant look of women's fashion of the 1950s (George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)

The 1950s style of women's fashion leant toward a more glamorous look. Movie stars, such as Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor, were emulated by women everywhere. Many of the styles of clothing for women today are modified versions of these older favourites. If you are lucky, you may still find some of these items in vintage shops and thrift stores.

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Skirts and Pants

Skirts were either full or pencil thin. The pencil skirt was a tighter fitting skirt that hugged the hips and narrowed down to the knees. The A-line skirt was tapered at the waist and flared out at the bottom resembling the letter "A."

Another popular skirt was the poodle skirt. Such skirts were made from a felt material with a French poodle embroidered on one side. Distinctive characteristics were a narrow waist and a full skirt reaching almost to the knees. Often paired with a cashmere sweater and pair of Oxford shoes, poodle skirts were a favourite of the 1950s teenager.

Trousers for women consisted of rolled up jeans or pedal pushers. These cropped trousers were similar to capri pants and often were worn when riding a bicycle. Long trousers would get caught in the chain of the bike, so longer trousers had to be rolled up or cut short.

Dresses and Tops

Dresses for women had a round, full skirt often belted at the waist. Some had short sleeves, no sleeves with a high collar or the popular halter-style that tied at the neck. Formal dresses worn to parties and social gatherings often were floor length, and worn with heels and white gloves.

Tops had long sleeves, short sleeves or puffed sleeves. Sweaters were cardigan-style and made from wool or cashmere. Sweaters could be worn buttoned up or loosely draped over the shoulders.

Shoes and Hats

The Oxford shoe, also called the saddle shoe or saddle Oxford, was very popular with young girls. The shoe was mostly white with brown leather covering the top of the foot resembling a saddle. Another popular casual shoe was the flat ballet slipper style. These could be worn with dresses or trousers. High-heeled shoes had a slim, narrow heel and pointed toes.

Hats were just as popular then as they are now. Small pillbox hats, berets, hats with veils and wide-brimmed hats were just a few of the favourite styles. Women bought hats as often as they bought shoes. Comedienne Lucille Ball, star of the "I Love Lucy" show, was the perfect example of a fashionable woman of the 1950s.

Gloves, Scarves and Jewelry

Gloves were a fashion accessory, just like handbags and jewellery. A lady was never without her gloves. Short gloves were worn for casual dress and long, elbow length gloves for formal dressing. Jewellery often was a pearl necklace and earrings or a simple string of beads. Scarves were another fashion accessory with many uses. Scarves were used to tie up a ponytail, tied around the neck as an ascot or worn over the head to protect a lady's hair from the wind.

Lingerie

Women's lingerie included thigh-high stockings with a garter, full and half slips worn under dresses, girdles, the conical (cone-shaped) bra and full-length corselette girdle. Girdles were the body-shapers of the 1950s, designed to smooth out bulges and give the appearance of a small waist.

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