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1950s' Fashion for Women

Smart dressing, impeccable grooming, and well-tailored, feminine silhouettes are the distinguishing markers of 1950s' fashion for women. This was the post-World War period and the ions of social, ideological, and politico-economical changes had charged the atmosphere.
This change was most radically reflected in the fashion of that era and its charm was catapulted to glory by the likes of Marylin Monroe and Bette Davis.
"The finest clothing made is a person's skin, but of course, society demands something more than this", observes Mark Twain, the famous American author and humorist. Clothes, accessories, shoes, hairstyles, cults, music, et all - the instruments and symbols of fashion may take these and many other forms to entrap (wo)mankind into intellectual slavery.
Fashion is an omnipotent psychological narcotic that has drugged the human society in many different forms since civilization took its first breath. Fashion has witnessed many transitions and has been greatly influenced by social, intellectual, and philosophical movements such as the Renaissance, Conservatism, Liberalism, etc.
The 1950s being the post World-War period, witnessed radical transitions in fashion, especially for women. Women's fashion in the 1950s is considered by many to be the golden era of feminine expression.
The 50s' fashion scene was inundated with a rage for extremely smart and elegant women's clothes characterized by emphasis on detailed tailoring coupled with soft, feminine silhouettes.
1950s' fashion for women is marked by revolutionary changes in the designs of, and materials used in, crafting fashion wares, viz. clothing, footwear, accessories, etc.
Fashion of the 1950s, for women, is typified by the popularity of Nylon as a fashion fabric, petticoats, stilettos, fuller and longer skirts, and an elegant, cheerful depiction of persona in advertising and media.
Let us take a walk down the retro-lane and take a look at the fashion details, item by item, that make the 1950s stand out prominently in the chronicles of world fashion.

1950s' Women's Clothes


1950s' clothing for women is synonymous with feminine sensual elegance.
The clothes of this period focused on imparting the hourglass silhouette to the wearer by replacing the short skirt, wide-shoulder silhouette with longer, fuller skirts which put emphasis on the waist and soft shoulder lines.
End of the World War saw the cessation of restrictions on textiles, which translated into the use of a variety of textiles and lower hemlines for women's clothing. While older women opted for the subtler Pencil Skirts, younger women often flaunted their swinging Poodle Skirts with flamboyant elan.
Utmost importance was given to acting and looking "every inch the lady", hence impeccable grooming and a well-tailored look were highly prized. Pleated skirts were also very popular, which gave a boost to this much-coveted, neat, elegant, tailored look. The hemlines usually ended just at the knee or a little below it.


A lot of variety was also seen in women's shirts and blouses, especially in the neckline, sleeves, and the cut.
Shawl collars, round collars, halter necklines, and soft short collars were very popular as they softened and flattered the shoulders. Blouses with short sleeves, puff sleeves, kimono sleeves, and rolled sleeves hit the zenith of fashion in the 1950s.
Soft draping cuts and monogramming were very famous fashion clothing aspects of the '50's designer clothing period.


Pants and shorts were generally reserved for very casual occasions like barbecues or picnics. The 1950s' fashion was more about formal elegance and less about casual sportiness.
However, though less popular, pants, shorts, and jeans (then, Dungarees) were given more stylish identities in the 1950s than their precursors. Culottes, Capri pants, and pleated shorts were acceptable fashion clothing, as were the tapered pants and overall suits.

Evening Dresses

Evening and prom dresses were crafted to bring out the princess in every woman, but with subtler tones and softer outlines.
The mass production of clothing, as a result of World War II efforts, meant that ordinary women could, now opt for designer evening dresses and dress patterns for the first time.
The evening dresses were extensively designed to accentuate the bust and the waist of the woman, and keep the focus off the hips and the derrière, by the way they tapered down across the waist and then fanned out generously towards the hemline.
Harem draping and balloon skirts attracted considerable attention during this time as new age cuts which differed from traditional feminine silhouettes, but spoke of glamorous elegance at the same time.
Classic ball gown designs, fueled by fantasy and celluloid fashion, have been around throughout the 1900's fashion era and were very much around in the 1950s' fashion scene, as were the European style A-line prom gowns.

1950s' Women's Accessories

A lady sans gloves was not considered a lady at all in the 1950s.
Gloves of all sizes - short, wrist length ones, medium elbow length ones, and the long beyond-elbow ones - were worn by the women in the '50's, and a woman usually had several pairs of them. Another important accessory was the scarf - and it was not just used to cover the head.
One would be astounded by the different ways of wearing scarves that were popularized during the 1950s. Using scarves as belts, wrapping them as halter tops (oh yes, I can see those eyes popping out!), as headbands or to tie ponytails, all these were considered hot fashion statements and were very popular during the fashion revolution of the 1950s.
Girdles were, more than often, inseparable companions to women's dresses, besides shawls and stoles. Mink stoles (...gasp!) were among the most coveted accessories and fashion styles for women to pair their evening dresses with in the 1950s.


The stiletto heel may pinch the foot of the lady wearing them, but, if worn on a pair of well-maintained feet and accompanied by a seductive gait, can pierce the heart of many gentlemen worth their dinner suits.
Wearing high heels have been fashionable for women in, more or less, all centuries, since high heels were invented. This chiropractor's dream was a fashion fixture of the 1950s. Though originally designed by the late Kristin S. Wagner, stilettos received their much-deserved popularity and feminine patronage in the late 1950s.
Block heels and flats also came around to be worn for everyday activities, like shopping or school, and were often paired with slacks. Ballet slippers also made an appearance during this time and were usually worn along with little white socks (yes, I'm serious!). Also popular around the time were saddle shoes.

Hairstyles and Makeup

Pins, curlers, and hair sprays - these were the triplets which ranked high in the hair-grooming kit of any fashion-conscious lady of the 1950s.
Be it huge, melodramatic curls or soft, undulating waves, or perms, curly hairstyles were the sign of a well-maintained woman. Straight or "untouched" hair implied that you are too lazy to look after yourself, not a lady in any right. The fifties witnessed a "poodle fixation" which was reflected in haute couture as well as hairstyles.
Check out Lucille Ball's hair to get a hang of what I mean. 1950s' hairstyles were in sync with the clothing of that time and reflected femininity, romance, and elegance.

The '50's makeup scheme was built around the idea of imparting a peaches and cream look; the tan was out of question.
The foundation shades were such that on application, they would reflect soft femininity and a latent blush. Eyebrows were narrowed following the natural shape and the use of blush and use of eyeshadow was minimal. The aim was to look as fresh as a garden of dew-kissed flowers.
That was a brief glimpse into 1950s' fashion trends for women. These fashion trends have been glamorized by Hollywood and immortalized by silver screen goddesses like Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Lana Turner innumerable times, and have often made us sigh at the sublime sensuality and elegance of the 1950s' fashion sense.
I would conclude with a quote on women's fashion from Sophia Loren, who was, herself, an outstandingly beautiful and brilliant actress of the 1950s: 'A woman's dress should be like a barbed-wire fence: serving its purpose without obstructing the view.'