As America began to recuperate following World War II, the types of clothing worn in the '50s began to take on a distinctly American look. As opposed to earlier decades when American clothes often mimicked the designs of European designers, American designers began to find their own voice, though some still looked to foreign designers for inspiration. This voice often reflected the conservative nature of the time period, with clothing that was much less flashy than movies like to portray for the period.
Men of the 1950s oftentimes dressed less casually than men of more recent years. Work clothes consisted of tailored suits, typically made from flannel, tweed and other materials replenished after the war, usually in neutral, nonflashy colours. Pinstripe suits were also popular among men of the '50s. Men wore ties with their suits, and usually wore hats as well. The wide-brimmed Panama hat and the straw hat both were popular. When relaxing at home, men often lost the suit jacket and tie worn for work, but remained in pressed slacks and shirts, considered dressy for more modern men.
As with men, women of the '50s often wore dressier clothing even in a casual setting than women of more recent times. According to the University of Vermont's Landscape Change Program, women's fashion gained influence from Christian Dior's "New Look" debuted in 1947. Dresses featured fitted waists, rounded shoulders and flared full skirts. One popular dress type, the dirndl dress, features the classic pinched waist and billowy skirt paired with puff sleeves or with no sleeves. Skirts were either flared like dress skirts or fitted like pencil skirts. The hemline for skirts hit either at the knee or mid-calf. Women's blouses featured V-necks or wide collars with short sleeves or no sleeves. Square necklines and straight high necks became popular at this time as well.
During the 1950s, clothing for children and teens began to separate even further from their adults, carving their own fashion niche. Kids and teens began wearing jeans more often, a result of World War II. Jeans often featured a wide cuff at the bottom. Girls would wear capri pants, jeans or other trousers reaching just below the knee. Also following the war, collared T-shirts became a popular clothing staple; many young males modelled their clothing after popular icon James Dean. While these more casual styles existed, many kids still dressed up for school, wearing dresses similar to their mothers or slacks and dress shirts like their fathers. The poodle skirt, an iconic clothing item of the 1950s, was popular among girls and came in many different varieties. Poodle skirts featured sequins and an applique image of a poodle on the front.
The shoes of the 1950s spoke more to function than fashion. Saddle shoes, the classic black-and-white flats, graced the feet of men and women alike. Women often wore high heels for every occasion, which matched the dressy casual look typified during the time. Flats, too, held popularity; during this time, the ballet slipper became popular. Men wore dressy shoes with their suits and at times donned blue suede loafers as well, according to Lone Star College's American Cultural History guide.
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- Lone Star College: American Cultural History: 1950-1959; Becky Bradley; 2010
- University of Vermont: Landscape Change Program:Men's Fashions - 1950s
- University of Vermont: Landscape Change Program: Women's Clothing - 1950s
- University of Vermont: Landscape Change Program: Girl's Fashions - 1950s
- University of Vermont: Landscape Change Program: Boy's Fashions - 1950s