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The Evolution of 1950s Fashion: Styles, Trends, and History

CEO Tinh Phung
Fashion in the 1950s was a time of great transformation and self-expression. It was an era that saw the introduction of new styles while paying tribute to the fashion of the 1920s. The 1950s brought...

1950s Fashion

Fashion in the 1950s was a time of great transformation and self-expression. It was an era that saw the introduction of new styles while paying tribute to the fashion of the 1920s. The 1950s brought a major change in the waistline, with some women embracing the snug fit of Dior dresses, while others preferred the more relaxed style of "sack dresses."

One of the notable aspects of 1950s fashion was the increasing freedom people felt in their fashion choices. Gone were the days of conforming to a specific look for specific situations. People felt empowered to express their individuality through their clothing. This era was a period of transition, as fashion historians grappled with the lines that would define the next decade.

In 1950, the transition continued. Fashion remained fluid, exploring various directions. In London, Hardy Amies showcased straight unbelted hip-hugging jackets over straight skirts, paying tribute to the 1920s. Meanwhile, in Paris, Dior introduced a "vertical line" with sheath dresses accentuated by pleating, tucking, and narrow ribbon bands. Transparent fabrics became popular for overskirts and coats.

Pierre Cardin made his debut in 1950, bringing tailored coats in chiffon, lace, and organdie over narrow summer dresses. Jackets took on a flared look, often flaring out above narrow skirts. The trumpet skirt shape also gained popularity, swinging in heavy pleats or stiffened flares below simple sheaths.

In 1951, the fashion world was unsettled about the waistline. Some designers, like Dior, raised the waistline higher, while Balenciaga embraced a more 1920s look. Women, however, took a different direction, piecing together their own post-war look with wide skirts and tailored suits. The waistline became relaxed, giving a longer look to the dress.

What did people wear in 1951? Tailored tweed dresses, fur trimmings, short décolleté dresses with cover-up jackets or boleros, ankle-length dinner dresses, overcoats made of shaggy material, wide-brimmed hats, small daytime hats adorned with jewels, brooches, and inch-high Cuban heels.

The most popular colors in fashion in 1951 were charcoal gray, gunmetal, various shades of green from emerald to dark fir, blues ranging from turquoise to peacock, royal blue and black combinations, purple and lavender, and orchid pink.

In 1952, the waistline continued to be a point of contention. Some designers, like Dior, embraced high waists, while others, like Balenciaga, championed slack-waisted dresses and middy-line suits. Each line called for a different type of corsetting, figure, posture, and personality. As fashion historians observed, fashion was taking time to settle into a mid-century look that would define the era.

During this time, the hourglass silhouette began to give way to a straighter, more molded figurine line. Dresses melted into figure-hugging sheaths that flared gently. The waistline continued to wander, disappearing at times, and skirts remained narrow. Scarves, stoles, and deep yokes with feminine pleating became popular.

Fur trimmings made a comeback in 1952, but with more taste and restraint. Deep fur cuffs were paired with small, tailored collars. Fur linings also gained attention, with reversible fabrics showcasing contrasting linings. The box jacket evolved into short barrel coats, and double-breasted buttoning was seen on skirts, bodices, and day clothes.

The popular colors of 1952 included gray, sherry colors, butter colors, blonds, greens, white, blues, and lilacs and lavenders.

1953 ushered in a sleek, slender elegance that was both young and sophisticated. Hemlines, waistlines, and hairlines grew shorter. The buzzwords of the time were "shape" and "sheen." The waistlines relaxed from the hipped tiny span to a more natural position. The form-fitting silhouette was softened by bulk at the top and back-flaring profile lines.

Women embraced crinoline petticoats under extra-full skirts and added wide leather belts and cummerbunds to accentuate their style. Accessories like stole, large hoop earrings, and long gloves became important fashion statements. The natural makeup look dominated, with a special emphasis on the elongated eye.

In 1954, fashion took a turn towards the classic, personal, and formal. The loose-fitting sack dresses gave way to the triangular "trapeze" shape. Designers made efforts to accommodate various shapes and sizes of women. Tops were soft, and skirts fell smoothly to a tapered hem. Coats followed the chemise or trapeze shape, and suits featured longer, slimmer jackets. Furs like mink, sable, and leopard made a comeback.

By 1955, fashion was heavily influenced by Asian design. Tunics and the "oriental look" became popular. Shoulders widened without padding, and clinging fabrics like ribbed cardigans and knit sweaters were in demand. Prints on cotton, organdy, and silk gained popularity, and the desire for fancy fabrics continued.

The color palette of 1955 included bright reds, vibrant blues, emerald greens, and deep yellows. Brown was the most popular basic color. Women embraced long evening dresses instead of short ones, and fur collars on tailored suits and coats became fashionable.

In 1956, fashion took a more elegant and intricate turn. The silhouette evolved, with designers focusing on the shape of the body. The trapeze shape was introduced, but some considered it too extreme. Chanel's open-jacket policy made blouses more prominent, and suits featured longer, slimmer jackets.

Luxury fabrics like silk, satin, chiffon, and furs such as mink and sable were in high demand. Hats, shoes, and hair played important roles in completing the 1956 look. Campus outfits often featured long, bulky sweaters over skinny skirts or pants.

1957 was the year that Coco Chanel became an adjective in her own time. Her elegant nonchalance made an impact on fashion, with open-jacket blazers becoming popular. The shift silhouette, introduced by Christian Dior, became a prominent style. Hemlines rose, leading to lower heels, and stockings often matched the shoes. Gloves grew longer, and hats featured Bretons, berets, cloches, and turbans.

In 1958, fashion focused on changing the shape of the silhouette. The loose-fitting sack dresses gave way to the triangular "trapeze" shape, but it was met with mixed reactions. Designers also made efforts to accommodate various shapes and sizes. Coats and suits followed the chemise or trapeze shape, and fabric and trimming provided a sense of luxury.

The color palette of 1958 included bright yellow, vibrant blue, violet, emerald green, and various shades of brown. Synthetic fabrics like Orlon, Dacron, and Acrilan gained acceptance.

In 1959, designers created new silhouettes by folding fabric around the body, creating dramatic geometric balances. The Garbo look featured blonde fabrics, fur trim, and loose-sashed jackets. The chemise and sack dresses continued to be worn, along with the introduction of the hobble skirt.

Chanel remained popular, with her open, hip-length blazer jackets imitated by many. Women embraced longer, slimmer jackets, and fabrics like mink, sable, and sequins took center stage. Hats covered most of the wearer's hair, and shoes transitioned from pointed toe and high spike heels to rounded toes and moderate heels.

The popular colors in 1959 included taupe, olive green, bold contrasts in large areas, brown, white, and Victorian patterns.

The 1950s were a transformative time in fashion. From the introduction of new styles to the evolution of the waistline, this era allowed individuals to express their individuality and embrace new trends. The influences of designers like Dior and Chanel left a lasting impact on fashion, reminding us that every decade has its own unique style.