Women's Clothing in 1950s: How It Changed What You Wear Today
At our editorial, we once had a survey: fashion of which era do you love the most. 75% told that they adore the women's clothing of the 1950. That's why we felt we need to share this era of elegance and femininity with you.
The 1950s witnessed a remarkable shift in women's fashion. The 7-year World War II finally ended. Women were tired of the practical clothing and designers of the decade switched to elegant and feminine silhouettes.
In this blog post, we delve into the iconic trends and key elements that defined women's clothing in the 1950s, and see how the styles of the time showcased the outfits' timeless charm and grace that continues to excite fashion lovers today.
Women's Clothing in the 1950s: The Golden Era
1950s were often referred to as the Golden Age of Hollywood. It was the time of prosperity and post-war economic growth. To fully understand the styles that fashion offered in the '50s, let's briefly review the events that had a significant impact on fashion.
What Was Happening In the 1950s?
End of World War II
Post-War Economic Boom
The 1950s marked a period of economic prosperity in many parts of the world, including the United States. As disposable income increased, people had more money to spend on fashion and clothing, leading to a heightened interest in style and fashion-forward trends.
The "New Look" by Christian Dior
In 1947, Christian Dior revolutionized fashion with his debut collection, introducing the "New Look" silhouette. With a focus on nipped-in waists and full skirts, the "New Look" became synonymous with post-war femininity and elegance, setting the tone for 1950s female outfits.
It's not a coincidence that 1950s are referred to as the Golden era of Hollywood. The film industry and its glamorous stars played a significant role in shaping fashion trends throughout the 1950s. Actresses like Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, and Grace Kelly influenced the public's perception of style, inspiring women to imitate their fashion choices on and off the screen.
Rock 'n' Roll
The rise of rock 'n' roll music in the 1950s had a profound impact on youth culture and fashion. Rock 'n' roll style, characterized by rebelliousness and a more casual aesthetic, influenced the development of teenage fashion, with denim, leather jackets, and poodle skirts becoming popular among the young generation.
The concept of the "teenager" emerged during the 1950s, and this newfound age group had a significant influence on fashion. Rebellious teenagers sought their own sense of style and began to embrace more youthful, casual, and vibrant clothing choices, which differed from the more formal attire of earlier decades.
Space Age and Technological Advances
The 1950s was a time of great scientific advancements and the beginning of the Space Age. This forward-thinking and futuristic mindset had an influence on fashion, with designers incorporating elements inspired by space travel, such as metallic fabrics and sleek lines, into their designs.
The combination of these events shaped the fashion landscape of the 1950s, creating a unique blend of elegance, youthfulness, and innovation.
Hollywood Style Icons Of the Era
The 1950s was an era of glamour and elegance, and Hollywood actresses played a significant role in shaping the fashion trends and the women's clothing of the time. Many of these actresses became style icons, admired for their impeccable style and sophisticated tastes. Here are some of the most influential actresses of the 1950s and the clothing styles they preferred:
Audrey Hepburn was an iconic 1950s actress known for her graceful beauty, elegance, and classic style. She was admired for her simple yet chic clothing choices, often opting for tailored pieces, like high-waisted pants, pencil skirts, and simple tops. She famously wore a stunning black Givenchy dress in the film Breakfast at Tiffany's that became one of the most iconic outfits of the era, showcasing simplistic elegance, as opposed to the opulent "New Look Clothing".
Marilyn Monroe was a glamorous Hollywood icon who epitomized the curves and femininity of the era. She popularized fitted clothing, such as pencil skirts, halter necks and strapless dresses, accentuating her hourglass silhouette. Monroe is perhaps most famous for her sultry pink dress in the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, with its fitted bodice and full skirt still remaining a celebrated example of 1950s fashion.
Grace Kelly was a legendary actress and fashion icon, known for her refined style. Kelly preferred classic, chic clothing, often wearing elegant suits, tailored dresses, and silk scarves accessorized with driving gloves. We'll always remember the iconic black and white Chanel dress she wore in the film Rear Window, showcasing the simple elegance she was known for.
Elizabeth Taylor was a Hollywood icon known for her bold personality and love of glamour. She was famous for her dramatic clothing choices, often wearing luxurious fabrics and intricate designs. She favored form-fitting strapless dresses and extravagant jewelry, embracing a more daring and opulent look. Her dramatic and iconic wardrobe from the film Cleopatra included a range of timeless dresses with bold colors, bold makeup, and striking accessories.
These actresses and their clothing choices became synonymous with the sophisticated glamour and elegance of the 1950s.If you want to learn more about their style, check out our list of the best 1950s actresses and how their style influenced fashion.
Top 1950s Women's Clothing Trends
Having explored the key events of the 1950s, let's take a look at the trends that uniquely shaped the fashion in that decade.
The Classic Hourglass Silhouette
One of the defining features of women's fashion in the 1950s was the hourglass silhouette. A nipped-in waist and full skirts created a feminine and flattering shape that emphasized the curves of the female form. The iconic Christian Dior's "New Look" played a pivotal role in popularizing this silhouette, often associated with cinched waists and voluminous skirts.
Dresses, Dresses, Dresses
What was the essential part of every woman's wardrobe in the 1950s? Of course, dresses.
Whether it was daywear or eveningwear, dresses dominated the fashion scene. This decade featured the most feminine and elegant silhouettes. Day dresses commonly featured A-line or shirtwaist styles, adorned with playful prints and colors. In contrast, evening dresses took on a more glamorous and sophisticated appearance, incorporating luxurious fabrics, such as satin and lace, along with intricate details like beading, embroidery and fur.
The Power of Tailoring
Adding a touch of sexuality, tailored suits became a symbol of independence for women during this era.
Inspired by menswear, these suits were impeccably cut and tailored to perfection. The jackets often had structured shoulders, accentuated by slim pencil skirts or wide-legged trousers. The tailored suit exuded an air of confidence and professionalism, making it a choice attire for businesswomen and those who wanted to break free from traditional gender norms.
With the '50s marking a return to traditional femininity, the feminine elements of women's clothing were in focus. Blouses with puffed sleeves, delicate collars, and ribbons were popular, providing a charming touch to a variety of outfits. Women also embraced full and flowing blouses paired with high-waisted skirts or trousers, creating a ladylike appearance.
Outerwear in the 1950s was as stylish as the dresses beneath. Coats and jackets were often crafted from luxurious materials like wool or cashmere, boasting elegant and structured designs. Fur accents and oversized collars added a touch of sophistication to these outerwear pieces, allowing women to enjoys the cold weather with style and glamour.
Emphasis on Accessories
Hats, gloves, and pearls were amongst the popular accessories of the time. Pillbox hats and fascinators added a touch of elegance to hairstyles, while gloves were considered a necessary accessory for any formal occasion.
After Coco Chanel introduced her signature pearl beads, pearls, both real and faux, became a staple of '50s fashion and were often worn as necklaces, earrings, or bracelets, lending a touch of glamour to any outfit.
1950s handbags and purses were compact and elegant, often crafted from the exotic leathers.
The fashion landscape of the 1950s remains an iconic era. This decade was unique and there was no other decade boasting such recognizable silhouettes.
The hourglass silhouette, dresses, tailored suits, and feminine accents continue to inspire modern fashion designers, showcasing the lasting influence of this era. Whether recreating the graceful silhouettes or incorporating vintage-inspired elements, you can still channel the timeless beauty that epitomizes 1950s fashion.