How to Dress for a 1950s Themed Party

1950s British sports saloon image by TA Craft Photography from

The 1950s featured fashion trends that reflected both the country's post-World War II sensibilities and the changing attitudes of the late 1950s/early 1960s. For organisers, a '50s-themed party requires research as some of the decade's trends survive as current fashion mainstays.

Following the lead of prominent cultural figures such as Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Elvis Presley and Doris Day, '50s-era, fashion-conscious people kept wardrobes filled with items that ranged from saddle shoes to form-fitting poodle skirts.

Choose a hairstyle. Choose a recognisable hairstyle that enjoyed popularity during the 1950s. The beehive, curly updos, pixie cuts and Betty Paige-style fringe dominated the hairstyle choices of the post-World War II decade.

Choose an outfit. The 1950s ushered in the rock 'n' roll era while holding fast to the popular form-fitting dresses and skirts. Poodle skirts, bobby socks, pencil skirts and bright-patterned dresses were in the wardrobes of many '50s-era women. While some of the '50s-era fashion fare enjoyed a rebirth in popularity in recent years, many of these items can be found in speciality clothing shops or though special order via an Internet-based costume retailer.

Choose accessories. In the 1950s, women accessorised clothing with silk or thin fabric gloves, cat-shaped eye wear, hair clips, colourful jewellery and bracelets. Women also donned petticoats, girdles, and brassieres to achieve the form-fitting silhouette look popular during the mid-century.

Choose a hairstyle. Male hairstyles of the 1950s saw the preeminence of military-inspired flat tops or buzz cuts, the Elvis Presley-inspired pompadour and the classic pomade-imbued ducktail, worn by the greaser subculture of the era. While these hairstyles originated in the 1950s, most remain popular with the fashion conscious along with celebrities and entertainers who seek a retro-inspired look.

Choose an outfit. Generally, mainstream '50s-era men's fashion reflected a disciplined approach to dress. Men wore full suits made from dense fabrics a majority of the time. Colours were in the more conservative range, from dark grey to black. As the decade moved on, the popularity of leather jackets and polo shirts ushered in a pre-'60s fashion revolution for males. In addition, movie star-inspired faded jeans also took hold as the decade moved on.

Choose an accessory. Men's accessories of the 1950s began and finished with the selection of a hat. Fedoras that matched the colour selection of the chosen suite dominated the choices of the day. In addition, conservatively coloured ties were also worn with the day's suit selection.