In the 1950s, girls' clothing styles often reflected their mothers' preferences. According to University of Vermont archives, females in the early '50s followed Christian Dior's "New Look," a style emphasising small waistlines, enhanced bust lines and unpadded shoulders. El Paso Community College notes how Marilyn Monroe's style encouraged the hourglass figure. Girls wore dresses, skirts and tops reflecting these preferences and created distinctive styles designed to attract guys.
Dresses and Skirts
In the 1950s, dresses and skirts -- with the support of ruffled petticoats -- billowed from the waist, emphasising a narrow middle for fortunate young girls. Other adolescent girls, however, wore girdles or corsets to reduce the appearance of their waistlines and to shape their bodies, despite the discomfort. Girls also enjoyed long felt poodle skirts with a poodle applique -- particularly chic in grey with a pink top. Sometimes, girls wore dresses with wide collars or V-necks.
Blouses and Sweaters
Young girls, like their mothers, wore fashionable short-sleeve or sleeveless blouses with skirts, trousers and jumpers. In addition to blouses, tight-fitting sweater sets became popular. These matching sweater sets included a pullover sweater and a cardigan -- particularly popular in pink. Sometimes teenage girls "enhanced" their look with a beehive hairdo, a high backcombed style shaped over a wire frame and sprayed into submission, according to El Paso Community College.
Outside school, girls often wore rolled-up jeans, called "dungarees." Oversized shirts -- actually men's white shirts -- often topped the jeans. With ponytails, white bobby socks, and saddle shoes or loafers, girls achieved the 1950s look. In addition to the ponytail, some girls chose the short, curly poodle cut. According to the Clearinghouse on Educational Policy and Management at the University of Oregon, most girls could not wear casual jeans or trousers to school.
For formal proms, girls often imitated their mothers, wearing sleeveless dresses with full skirts. Girls felt fashionable with high heels, pearl necklaces, bracelets and earrings. Having matching shoes and purses completed the look; even gloves remained popular. This formal style continued throughout the 1950s.
At the end of the 1950s, a more svelte look returned. Long slim dresses reappeared, as well as long skirts with vests or short jackets. Petticoats and gathered skirts began to disappear as adolescent girls sought the newer look.
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- University of Vermont: Landscape Change Program; 1950s; 2004.
- El Paso Community College; Teenage Fashions of the Nifty Fifties; Neysa Dilly, Annette Romero and Ruth Beltran; 2011.
- Clearinghouse on Educational Policy and Management at the University of Oregon (formerly Education Resources Information Center [ERIC]; School Dress Codes and Uniform Policies; Wendell Anderson; 2011.