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This blog post brings us right into the hearth of American fashion, and the inspiration for my personal favorite styes: The 1950s!
As WWII rolled to an end and rations were lifted, new styes were created resorting back to the more expensive and luxurious fabrics of the 1920s. The post war era brought in a sense of new freedom and wealth, creating a broad range of styles (Kass, Allison).
The 1950s had two distinct fashion eras. During the first half of the decade the fashion was innocent and recognizable, think a retro sock hop. Women wore poodle skirts with simple blouses, and black and white Oxford shoes. Hair was tied into curly pigtails and girls sported cardigans or their boyfriend’s varsity jacket (Kass, Allison).
On the other hand, older women created a polished look, emphasizing the importance of looking and acting like a lady. Many women who had previously worked in World War II factories quit or were fired, so girls were taught from a young age how to be the perfect housewife, cook the perfect meal, and dress impeccably. (Kass, Allison).
The overall inspiration for the first section of 1950s fashion came from Christian Dior and his new look in 1947. The styles included a tight cinched waist, billowing skirt, and pronounced bust line, brining back the ideals of the 19th century (Monet, Dolores).
Iconic pieces such as the swing skirt and pencil skirt were also very popular during this time period. A swing skirt can be seen in the previous picture, a tight waistline with a splayed bottom. The pencil skirt was more popular for older women due to its provocative nature when worn on younger girls. This type of clothing article was a tight tube fitting bottom cut bluntly around the knees. Accessories such as cat eye glasses were also common (Kass, Allison).
With the wave of new styles also came bold and vibrant prints!
“From stripes to florals, prints generally appeared in colors on a white background. Wild floral skirts, like the one above, contrasted with a plain-colored, short-sleeved knit top.
Stripes of all kinds appeared, from bold black-and-white horizontals to thin black or dark blue stripes on a light background, often worn with 3/4-length sleeves.
Polka dots showed up in contrasting colors, like red on white (and vice versa), or dark blue and white, or white on white with nubby or textured dots” (Monet, Dolores).
As the 1950s progressed into its second stage, so did the glamour, bringing back the Hollywood styles seen in the 1930s, but on a grander scale. Styles became even more feminine, women more inclined to show off their curves also increasing the popularity of the pencil skirt. The idea of the classic pin up girl came into focus, starting the first ‘body standards’ for women. Girls aspired to look bold and beautiful like Marilyn Monroe and Bettie Page (Kass, Allison).
The 1950s also brought into focus many fashion designers who’s names are well known today-
“Cristóbal Balenciaga gave us the 3/4 length sleeve. His designs offered a looser style that released women from stiffly structured tailored garments. Combining a loose coat with a pencil skirt created a unique new appearance. His 1957 sack dress without a waistline evolved into the shift-style dress that became so popular in the 1960s.
Hubert de Givenchy was famous for creating clothing for his favorite muses Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy. He entered the Paris couture scene at an early age with designs based on separates with a youthful appeal.
Coco Chanel reestablished herself as a designer after World War II with wearable clothing. Her boxy suits with contrasting trim, worn with a soft blouse adorned by a pussy-cat bow, were created for ease of movement. In 1955, she introduced her signature quilted handbag with a gilt chain strap; it is still popular” (Monet, Dolores).
Overall, the bustling styles of the 1950s were a drastic change from the bland fashions during WWII. This decade inspired women to feel comfortable showing off their bodies through personal styles. As Hubert de Givenchy said, “The dress must follow the body of a woman, not the body following the shape of the dress.”
Monet, Dolores. “Fashion History—Women’s Clothing of the 1950s.” Bellatory. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 July 2016.
Kass, Allison. “The 20th Century of American Fashion: 1900 – 2000.” Requirements for a Degree in Writing Journalism and Freelance (2011): I-37. Web.