Fashions of the 1950s

Written by shefali choudhury Google
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Fashions of the 1950s
Fashions for full skirts reflected the prosperity of a world no longer at war. (George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)

1950s fashions were a vibrant combination of extreme conservatism and the liberation that they represented. Famous couturiers that drove 1930s trends were nearly all based in Europe where the use of fabric was rationed but peacetime brought Dior's 1947 collection of lavish and exciting full skirts. By the 1950s Britain started to promote luxury fabrics in an attempt to strengthen the depleted economy, and there was also a full return to prosperity in the U.S. While we remember the famous fashions of the 1950s as having an all-American model look, it is easy to focus on the uniformity and conventionality of this. The conventional face of the time concealed changes in society, which would in part lead to the fashion revolution of the 1960s.

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Lavish full skirts created the 1950s female silhouette. A nipped-in waist, structured top and stiletto heels completed the shape. Other trends included sweetheart necklines and halter necks, which both accentuated the shoulders and made the contrast with a tiny waist more obvious. Despite the abundance of fabric and the romantic shape of dresses, they were not overtly adorned with decoration. This simplicity was echoed throughout fashion, with hair curly but extremely tidy, and make-up being a slick of liquid eye liner with red lipstick.


The affluent, preppy American college look started with Ivy League universities. Boys wore their hair in the college-cut, which was short at the back and sides. However, instead of slicking the top back in traditional style it would often be side-parted with side-swept fringe. Other key elements of the style included relaxed suits and knitwear.

Rockabilly style was linked to fans of music but has been one of the more enduring fashion trends of the decade, often influencing modern retro clothing. Mixed with a later rock and roll look, boys wore T-shirts and jeans, or in extreme cases two-tone shirts. Hair was slicked back in the style of Elvis or James Dean. Girls often opted for controversially tight pencil-skirts and sweaters, with high ponytails and scarves.

Key Items

Key '50s fashion looks for women included neat curly hair, full-circle skirts, metal stiletto heels, red lips, black liquid eyeliner and cat's eye sunglasses. Capri pants, pencil skirts and mohair cardigans were also popular and accessories often included a smart handbag and square scarf. Men wore clean-cut conservative clothing, or the rebel rock and roll look. There was a stylised clean perfection to the fashions of the time.

Fashion Icons

Hollywood continued to be an influence on 1950s style, especially stars such as Audrey Hepburn and Marylin Monroe. Petite Hepburn was the ideal clotheshorse, rising to fame after her 1953 role in "Roman Holiday." A muse for many couturiers, her chic '50s style included capri pants, flat shoes and fine knits. Marylin Monroe embodied the curvaceous, feminine silhouette we most often remember from the 1950s. One of the most famous dresses of all time is the white halter-neck she wore for "Seven Year Itch," which caught the air and swirled up high. Pin-up girl Bettie Page epitomised the sensual and controversial side of non-conservative '50s fashion. With the model-female image running through the heart of '50s life in America, it is no surprise that the Barbie Doll was launched in 1959.

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