School Clothes of the 1950s

Jeans image by Francis Bourgouin from

Modern school clothes range from the casual to the controversial depending on the culture and the fad of the day. In the 1950s, casual clothes such as jeans and loose shirts were strictly for play or after school.

School clothes were much more formal, and there were clear indications of how a boy should wear his jacket or how high a girl could wear her skirt.

Boy's Fashions

What is known as the "Ivy league" or "preppie" look was the fashion for boys in 1950s schools. This consisted of charcoal or tan-coloured slacks, a light-coloured shirt and a long-sleeved sweater with two or three buttons. The look that we've often seen in popular culture of greased hair and leather jackets was not very common and was prohibited at most schools.

Girl's Fashions

Dresses were the norm for schoolgirls in the 1950s. Casual clothes that we see today, like short skirts and tank tops, were not permitted. Dresses had to have sleeves and collars and had to be long enough to reach or cover the knee. There were two main types of skirts: pencil skirts and poodle skirts. Pencil skirts conformed to a lady's curves and were seen as both dressy and flattering. Poodle skirts were worn with layers of petticoats underneath.

Not For School

It may be surprising to find out that clothes that are identified as common 1950s fashion were strictly forbidden as school clothes. Dungarees, which eventually came to be known as jeans, are a common sight in school today. In the 1950s, however, they were prohibited for either gender. Only boys could wear slacks to school.

School Uniforms

Religious or private schools had even more conservative standards. School uniforms were not as common in the U.S. as in other countries such as the United Kingdom. The sailor-suit look was popular for both boys and girls and often included a matching hat. Matching caps and short trousers for boys were the norm. Boys were also expected to keep their hair short and their shoes shined. Girls wore jumpers that were often made of corduroy and could go with a variety of blouses.