Major Fashion Trends of the 1950s

Fashion trends have altered dramatically over time. The way we style has evolved into more than just a means of covering our nakedness; it has also evolved into one of the fundamental ways to express and differentiate ourselves from those around us.

When it comes to fashion, what goes around comes around, and the styles of the 1950s are no exception. As a result of the ’50s fashion resurgence, celebrities such as Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe rose to popularity and became fashion icons. In the 1950s, women’s fashion reflected a complex blend of conservatism and glamour and beguiling femininity.

1950’s Fashion History

Marilyn Monroe in a pink dress and pink gloves, with men circling her wearing black suit

While the men were away waging in World War II, women began to gain fashion independence that was relatively unimaginable. Designers from areas other than Paris, France (the longtime fashion capital of the West) rose to prominence. 

Fashion historians may see the years following WWII as a period of transition. Christian Dior forever transformed the fashion line in 1947 when he created the look that would dominate the next decade. Dior’s debut fashion collection, displayed in Paris and dubbed the “New Look” by Harper’s Bazaar editor Carmel Snow, was the polar contrary of the 1940s look. Film stars and runway shows promoted new styles of clothing and demonstrated how to wear them successfully.

Women’s Clothing 

a woman in blue dress wearing a turban and sunglasses

The 1950’s fashion was dominated by hourglass frames. The style was distinctly sophisticated, with cinched-in waistlines that emphasized hips and busts. Christian Dior, a French designer, introduced his exquisite, sumptuous “New Look” for ladies in 1947, and it remained fashionable throughout the 1950s. Shoulders were rounded rather than squared, and the ration-happy 1940s’ short, straight skirt was replaced by a large, billowing skirt that hit mid-calf. Some skirts were so slim and fitted that it was difficult for women to walk in them. Bodices were incredibly tight, emphasizing the tiny waist.

The ensemble had a mid-nineteenth-century vibe to it. Women had to cram themselves into some hefty underwear once again to create the appearance. The ‘wasp waist’ was created with a boned corset, and the hourglass figure was completed with bust and hip padding.

The New Look marked the end of wartime austerity and embraced a decorative femininity paradigm.

Women’s Hat and Accessories

a woman in a red dress. Red shoes, and res hat

Fashion in the 1950s led the world to the conservative war years and into the elegant era of the century. It was no longer astonishing to see someone walking down the street without a hat or gloves on.

  • When ladies wanted to be ultra-fashionable and glamorous in the late 1950s, they wore long, white gloves. However, a formally dressed lady still wore short white cotton gloves for daytime and a decorative hat.
  • Large-brimmed straw hats with large brims are popular during the summer, and for most of the 1950s, smaller hats were the norm.
  • Cat’s eye shaped-sunglasses had been popular in the 1950s, and women wore them not just to protect their eyes from the sun but to look cool too.
  • In the 1950s, many women wore jewelry as a symbol of femininity or to show off their social position. Pop beads made of plastic were a popular costume item. Clip-on earrings, as well as slim watches and understated rings, were conventional and graceful.
  • Shoe styles from the 1950s evolved into subtle accents. Shoes were plain classy single-color pumps, flats, wedges, and loafers instead of garish patterns and loads of extravagant adornments. For daytime attire, black and brown were the most popular hues, while brighter colors suitable for summer.

Men’s Clothing and Shoes

men and women in Retro clothing style, new Mini with old styling

Suits for men in the 1950s were usually two-piece, consisting of a jacket and trousers. They were either single or double-breasted and constructed of woven wool paired with a collared cotton shirt and dressy leather shoes.

Some men wore conservatively colored baggy suits with tight ties in the early 1950s. Meanwhile, clothing became more textured, bright, and casual as the decade progressed. Men’s leisurewear has become highly popular. Men would dress for business in the morning and swiftly change into more comfortable clothing when they went home, rather than wearing three-piece suits all day. 

Hawaiian shirts, which initially appeared in the late 1940s, were a popular choice for men throughout the 1950s, and Hawaiian-style shirts and knee-length shorts became summer standards.

Men’s shoes had fewer options than women’s shoes. Popularly, suits were paired with brown or black leather shoes.

The 1950s were a significant step back in many areas, particularly for women. Women had left the workforce to become stay-at-home wives and moms in many cases, while returning soldiers had married and established families. During this era, spending was encouraged in some countries, particularly the United States, to boost the economy. While women were fulfilling their roles as wives, mothers, and housekeepers, most women were pressured to be beautiful. Her appearance was linked to her husband’s success, which resulted in a large boost in the garment industry as women spent more time shopping for the latest styles.