1950s Summer Dresses

Written by jody wilber
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1950s Summer Dresses
Pencil dresses accent an hourglass figure. (George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)

1950s summer fashion for women consisted mostly of dresses and skirts. It was very uncommon to see a lady in trousers during this era. Women of the period embraced femininity and cared about the way they looked in public and in private. 1950s summer dresses consisted of soft prints and short-sleeve or sleeveless dresses that conveyed a modern, fashionable look.

Mid-Calf Dress

Summertime was often the height of party season and dresses were the expected fashion at any party. Most of these summer party dresses had short, puffy sleeves, a tight waist that was accented by a ribbon or bow, and a full skirt. Often a petticoat would be worn under the skirt or sewn into the dress for added fullness.


A sundress in the 1950s usually ended right below the knees and was sleeveless. Feminine floral patterns or solids in bright colours were used for the design of the fabric. It was not uncommon to see a lady wearing a sundress with a pair of gloves and heels as she headed out for lunch with friends.

Swing Style Dress

If going out for afternoon tea, a lady in the 1950s would probably wear a swing style dress that was accented with feminine features such as ribbons or bows. The material would most likely be a soft floral design and the dress would have short sleeves. Long white gloves would often be worn to complete the look.

Pencil Style Dress

A pencil style dress came in long sleeves, short sleeves or was sleeveless. For summer, most pencil dresses were either short sleeved or sleeveless. The point behind a pencil dress was to make the woman look like she had a figure eight shape. Younger girls did not wear this look.


Along with a dress, a pair of pumps with an age-appropriate heel would be worn. Some younger girls might wear a ballet slipper style shoe or saddle shoes with ankle socks. Often a sweater would be worn over the sundress for cooler evenings, and flat Italian gondolier hats were worn for special occasions. A girdle was considered a necessary undergarment for all dresses.

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