Historical Notes on the 1950s Clothing Styles

Regardless of our age, most of us remember the distinctive 1950s clothing styles, predominately from popular TV shows, such as ‘I Love Lucy’, ‘Leave it to Beaver’ and ‘Lassie. The primary signature of this decade of fashion was the wide, below the knee skirts and dresses, comprised of yards and yards of fabric not seen on the fashion scene since Victorian times. So much fabric! Decorations of lace and other big trimmings to hems and sleeves were also usual additions. These garments were the height of fashion and lasted in popularity for a full decade. As we all know that the 50’s gave birth to the Rock and Roll era which is unforgettable.

Have you ever wondered how and why fashion designers come up with an ever changing selection of clothing designs that vary by the year and season with respect to color and detailing? The basic designs provide women with a new take on their fashion look, while color and detailing serve to mark your wardrobe as chic and up to date or outdated and fashion-unconscious. Women pay the closest attention to the whims and trends developed by fashion designers. Men do notice what their women wear, putting us more or less at the mercy of the fashion world. That’s why all fashion designers make History as they go along in time.

Even today, the 1950s clothing styles are still to be found, fast selling items in the retro and vintage clothing shops and online auction sites such as eBay. So why did the 50s fashion designs survive so long?

During the Great Depression years, fashion designers could ill afford the voluminous quantities of fabric required for the big, flowing skirts and fancy detailing – beads, slim satin trims and slender lines were popular and affordable. During World War II, rationing extended even into clothing. There was a thriving black market for silk stockings. Following World War II, after more than two decades of these svelte, but economical fashions, women were more than ready for a change and designers were delighted to accommodate their wishes.

Wide skirts and puffy sleeves made a reappearance to an enthusiastic audience of consumers. The four or five yards of fabric required for the 1950s clothing styles became the mark of the well dressed woman, no longer confined to the minimalism of the designs of the 1930s and 1940s. Bodices were embellished with pleating, embroidery and laces, while skirts sported cute appliques – remember the ‘Poodle’ skirt? Coats and sweaters underwent the same makeover, with the so-called car coat and Perry Como sweaters all the rage.

However, the 1950s clothing style did finally fade into fashion history, giving way to the radical 60s fashions – knee-high boots, midi-length skirts and dresses, embroidered peasant blouses and fringed leather and suede coats. After all, designers do need to have us update our wardrobes – otherwise, where would they be?

Clothing from this era will always be remembered.