After a period of austerity during World War II, the economies of many parts of the world began to recover. Along with the end of rationing and frugality during the war years, America experienced the resurgence of elegant and extravagant fashion during the 1950s. Several new styles and trends were introduced during this decade. Thanks to TV shows like Mad Men, it seems like the 1950s style is enjoying its revival. Check out some very interesting facts about the fashion scene of this iconic decade:
The New Look by Dior
Christian Dior’s “New Look” definitely replaced the boxy, angular lines, padded shoulders and shapeless dresses of the 1940s with billowy skirts, rounded shoulders, and receding waistlines as well as receding hemlines. His dresses sought to emphasize feminine curves above all, and they soon became widely popular among the fashionistas of that time.
Marilyn Monroe was launched not just as a sex icon, but also a fashion icon as well. She was one of the few women during her time who introduced the sensual factor in one’s overall style, becoming one of the legendary beauty and fashion icons of all time. Grace Kelly
Grace Kelly was one of the most recognizable beauty and fashion icons ever. She exuded sensuality but in a more subtle and more glamorous way. The elegant wedding gown that she wore on her 1956 wedding to Prince Rainier III of Monaco is timeless and has launched inspirations for several wedding gowns, whether these were for royal weddings or not.
Audrey Hepburn and Hubert Givenchy
Audrey Hepburn’s slim, youthful and graceful figure broke the conventional idea of beauty at the time (buxom and curvaceous). She was like a breath of fresh air, especially when it came to the fashion world. At that time, her unique look inspired designers like Hubert Givenchy, who made most of her costumes. These included the famous “little black dress” in the film ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, though the movie itself was made in the early ’60s.
Slim Dresses Make a Return
By the late 1950s, the flowing skirts had slowly begun to wane and long, slim dresses had regained popularity once more. Jackets and blazers were usually worn over these outfits.
Blouses were also quite fashionable during the 1950s, even though some might have considered certain designs a bit risqué before this decade. Many blouses at this time had very short sleeves or were completely sleeveless.
The Preppy Style
The emergence of postwar youth culture during the decade brought the “preppy” look which was inspired by the campus dress codes. Sweaters, cardigans, cable knits, stripes, and checkered suits made up this look. We know that this style at least has been making a comeback in the 21st century.
James Dean and Marion Brando
Legendary screen “rebels” James Dean (Rebel Without a Cause) and Marlon Brando (The Wild One) made the classic white T-shirt/jeans/leather jacket ensemble a must for every ’50s teenage male. Perhaps the sheer simplicity of this outfit was also a factor in its popularity, as was the overall ‘cool’ and casual look.
Gray Flannel Suit
The look for most businessmen and employees — whether he was a lowly office worker or a CEO — was the typical “gray flannel suit.” Conformity was the rule when it came to business suits. However, this kind of suit wasn’t just gray. Men’s suits also came in other shades, including black, dark brown, light brown or dark blue.
The Tight Knit Sweater
You might not believe this, but before the 1950s, tight-knit sweaters were seen as scandalous. This was because they outlined and hence revealed too much of the curves on a woman’s chest! These sweaters only came to be acceptable during the 1950s, and might also be considered to be a part of the classic “preppy” look.
Besides being the “King of Rock n’ Roll,” Presley was also the king of men’s fashion during his time. He even made wearing the regular T-shirt ultra-trendy! He wasn’t afraid to experiment layers, patterns and even bright colors to incorporate his unique style. What most young (and some old) men would love to imitate from Presley were, of course, his signature slicked-back “duck tail” hairstyle and long sideburns.
Reading up on 50s Fashion
The interesting facts about the fashion scene during the 1950s only touch the tip of the iceberg. If you want to get into this subject in more detail or just have a quick reference for your favorite 50s fashions, a proper book might be in order. Check out the book called “Planet Fashion: 100 years of Fashion History” for this purpose.
This book is authored by Natasha Slee and illustrated brilliantly by Cynthia Kittler. The pages will take you through a journey of 25 scenes in the history of fashion, with the 1950s included. Each picture has one male and one female, dressed to perfection for their era. The scenes all have lavish illustrations for every time and place talked about in the book.
If you’re a lover of fashion, culture, history, or some combination of all three, this book is a must for your collection. Since it has a gorgeous cover as well, you can also display it in your living room as a coffee table book. With its detailed illustrations and a ‘Can You Find?’ game page can give your guests several minutes of entertainment along with information about several historical events in the world of fashion.
Fashion is evolving as we speak, and the 1950s was one of the most important decades in this aspect of history. The 1950s is a decade that many know for its problems in limiting women to the kitchen and the home, but this was also the time when women started expressing themselves through fashion. Hence, this is not an era to ignore when you’re delving into the history of fashion.