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1950s Fashion Styles

Vintage 1950s Fashion Designs

Women's Fashion

Soft, feminine, romantic…these words best describe Fifties evening wear. Top French designers of the day included the Christian Dior, as well as Jacques Fath, Nina Ricci, Coco Chanel, Pierre Balmain, Hubert de Givenchy and Christobal Balenciaga. At the start of the decade, Dior launched the "vertical line", also known as the sheath dress. Its overall silhouette was long and narrow. Generally, it was made with three pieces: a bodiceskirt and jacket. The bodice was high V-shaped with shirring necklines with long straight sleeves, the skirt was narrow and slim, and the jacket was short and boxy. The tiny waistline became a popular at this time. Many designers emphasized the waistline, especially Dior. In the USA, the "American Look" appeared and was especially appealed to teenagers. The Wide leg 1940s pants popularised by Katherine Hepburn were worn into the early '50s but with a more tailored fit, a higher crotch and without the pleats but as the decade progressed most started getting really narrow legs.  Many designers were focusing on the sleeve. Sleeves were still wide but were becoming softer and smoother than previous styles. Popular styles of this year were tailored tweed dresses, ankle-length evening dresses, and small daytime hats with jewels and fur trimming. If one look dominated the 1950s it was the hourglass figure. Pleated skirts complimented the tailored look favored in the 1950s. Hemlines were to the knee or just below it. No wardrobe was complete without at least one pencil skirt, The pencil skirt was glamorous and accented a womanly figure. A variation of the swing skirt was modified to make a peasant style of flare. Corselets, designed to be worn under evening gowns, were generally strapless and featured underwire cups for breast enhancement. Christian Dior's trendy "New Look" collection centred on dresses, skirts, and coats that had super-full skirts and created an hourglass silhouette. Beyond full petticoat half-slips, the bust was also a prominent part of the look, which meant bras became wired and structured to push up and form décolletage set against plunging necklines. Poodle skirts have long been a symbol of 1950s Americana, but they in fact date back to 1947. A poodle skirt is a wide swing skirt with a poodle appliqued or transferred onto the fabric. Swing Dress featured below.

Woman wearing 1950s blue swing dress

Among the designers mentioned above, Balenciaga and Dior were at the forefront. Dior presented high-waisted garments with swimsuit-inspired tight shapes from neck to hips, which flared smoothly over the knees. Balenciaga pioneered the slack-waist dresses and middle length skirts. Balenciaga made the silhouette almost not touch the body. By the mid-decade the tiny waist and full skirt lost their dominance in the shape of style. Rather than emphasizing the waist, women started makes their breasts pointy and big. Designers created relaxed silhouettes, such as the H-line skirt from Dior. Its shape was straight from the shoulder to the hip. It was more than two inches bigger than Dior's previous silhouette. Blouses and tops were worn with skirtspants, and shorts. They were fitted to the waist but not tight. Sleeves came in long, short, cap sleeves, or sleeveless. The puffy sleeve of the 1940s blouse went out of fashion for a less fussy straight fitting sleeve, sometimes with a narrow cuff by the mid-1950s. The pea motif, along with the bright patterned dresses in demonstrates a playfulness that emerged in pattern while the Charles James “Clover Leaf” dress and Balenciaga evening dress show the experimentation in construction that took place in the fifties. Claire McCardell, the American designer who rose to prominence in the 1940s, continued to produce her popular wrap-over dresses and also introduced pedal-pushers with matching tops. During this time coats or jackets always came with dresses or other outfits. Among the variety of jacket designs, Ben Zuckerman created the "skyscraper jacket", which had a short bosom-length bolero. The pants were shorter and long sweaters were often worn over skirts - – all of these designed to accentuate a woman’s curves rather than hide them.

The women wearing 1950s Pencil Dress

By 1955 clothes became contemporary. The women's style became simple but at the same time had sex appeal, and the flavor was from the 1920s. The fashion was strongly influenced by Asian designers, especially from Japan and India. The "Oriental look" from Givenchy led the trend. Indian saris and tunic were extremely popular. This year's casual clothes were the most demanded style than previously couture, though still popular. Dressing up desire was at its peak in 1955. Women loved to wear long evening dresses rather than short basic dresses. Evening dresses were made with light wool chiffon or thick wool with gold jewels. Keeping in line with the ultra-feminine look dominated by Dior which brought out his one and only collection of swimwear for the Cole of California in 1955. He designed a series of floral printed swimsuits with halter neckline style.

Towards the end of the decade Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel became a big name. She introduced the two-piece suit which had a boxy fit, open button jacket with blouse inside, pockets decorations, cuffs made with pearls, and H-line skirt. Not only did the suit become the iconic style, but also pullovers fabricated with jerseys and tweeds and lace evening dresses became the most elegant look of women. Women started to come down from stiletto heels due to the disappearance of the waistline, and hemlines were made higher so that the legs could look longer without heels. The cloche hat with a loose pleated skirt was a popular common fashion in 1957. Due to some people not liking the new loose shape like Balenciaga's "sack dress", a new shape came out: the triangle shape called "trapeze". Coats were also made with the trapeze shape, which looked like a bell. Coats were presented with more designs of collars and details. Hats and shoes were important in 1958.The popular young generation's look was a bulky sweater with skinny skirts or pants. Many designers started to create a new silhouette by manipulating fabrics. The "sack dress" was still in existence, but was on its way out in 1959. Necklines became more three-dimensional by folding the fabrics and creating geometric shapes around the shoulders.For most of the 1950s, the sweetheart neckline, full skirt, and small waist was the classic silhouette for the retro 50s wedding dress. Fabrics used embraced a structure which easily moulded to the shape of the torso, as well as shaped the hips down until the floor. Satins were also used, and the more popular ones were ribbed silk and Duchesse satins, both of which were shimmery and smooth.

Men's Fashion

For men, the button down shirt was a year round style in both long and short sleeves. Shirts came in plaid, plaid, plaid, and more plaid. Solid colors, too, but mostly just plaid. Heavy plaid fleece or wool blends for winter (Pendleton still makes them just like the ’50s cut) and light cotton or madras in summer. Most button down shirts came with either a high button collar like a dress shirt or an open neck collar. In terms of nightwear two styles stand out: the “Yokojama” a half sleeve top with Asian inspired motifs and pants cropped just below the knee, and the “Skijamas” which were knit pullover tops and bottoms with rib knit cuffs. Rockers like Elvis Presley left more formal dress codes, well, all shook up, replacing trilbies with slick quiffs, ties with button-down shirts, and fusty flannels with featherweight fleck-linen jackets. Jack Kerouac and the Beats made a fetish of utilitarian workwear, both in their lives – in their plaid shirts and beat-up blouson jackets – and in their literature: While many brands have rebooted the classic 1950s fashion – high-waisted trousers, Perfecto leather jacketsCuban-collar shirts, penny loafers – Prada have done more than most to keep the faith.

References: Wikipedia