1950s Clothing for Women

Written by marisa swanson
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1950s Clothing for Women
(Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

The fashions of the 1950s came off the heels of World War II. Many soldiers coming home from the war wanted to settle down and start a family. The image of the demure housewife was idolised. Skin was shown at a minimum. To emphasise the female form, the silhouette of the period focused on a nipped-in waist, creating an hourglass shape. The rules of what to wear on which occasion was more rigid than today's standards.

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Skirts and Dresses

There was one main silhouette in the '50s for women, the hourglass. To achieve this shape women wore skirts and dresses with fitted waists, often emphasised with a belt. Although corsets were long out of fashion, women wore girdles to fit into the small waists of their dresses and achieve the ideal shape of the period. Skirts, both alone and attached to dresses, were full. Formal dresses were worn with crinoline underneath to maintain fullness. The skirt length of the period was just below the knee. Casual skirts and dresses often had pockets for practicality. Occasionally women wore pencil skirts, but the housewife rarely did; it was more often worn on an outing or in an office. The pencil skirt still had the same nipped-in waist of the full skirts and dresses.

Tops and Cardigans

There was more than one popular type of top worn in the '50s. With skirts, women wore a crisp button-down in any variety of colour. Cardigans and twinsets were also very popular. Short-sleeve and sleeveless tops were all the rage and worn year-round. Round and U-shaped necklines were popular, as well as Peter Pan collars. In the summer, a boxy sleeveless top was also popular to wear on a casual weekend day.

Suits and Jackets

The '50s saw women going to work in offices performing secretarial jobs. These jobs had an unspoken, fashionable uniform for the women. Like the men, they had their version of the suit. These were often made in tweed or wool and worn in basic as well as feminine colours. The skirt was a pencil shape and often came with a matching jacket. In the early '50s the jackets were tailored and followed the hourglass shape. Later on, women's suits became a bit boxier à la Jackie Kennedy's style.

Trousers

The '50s woman was not relegated to wearing just skirts and dresses. However, trousers were worn only on the most casual occasions. While teenagers adopted a straight leg, rolled up jean with saddle shoes, women were expected to be more formal. Trousers in a shortened and slimmed down silhouette were the pant to don for a Saturday in the backyard. They were worn in basic and feminine colours alike. A woman might wear a pair of her husband's jeans, if she was going to do something like work in the garden.

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