Reviving the Classic: Women’s Fashion in the 1950s

Step into the marvelous fashion world of the 1950s, where women’s clothing was characterized by femininity, elegance, and sophistication. The fashion industry of the fifties was blooming with new designs, fabrics, and patterns. Ladies’ wardrobe was filled with iconic dresses, skirts, blouses, and coats that reflected the beauty of the era. In today’s era, the iconic 1950s fashion trend is making a comeback and inspiring modern designers. So let’s go on a journey to explore the exquisite style of the classic 1950s fashion and how it’s being revived today.

Reviving the Classic: Women's Fashion in the 1950s
Reviving the Classic: Women’s Fashion in the 1950s

The Evolution of Women’s Fashion in the 1950s

In the 1950s, women’s fashion experienced a significant transformation, with a move away from the restrictive clothing of the previous decade towards a more free-flowing and feminine style. The new style was characterized by a focus on curvaceous silhouettes, with nipped-in waists and full skirts. This look was popularized by the fashion icon Marilyn Monroe, who embodied the feminine glamour of the era.

The Influence of World War II

The evolution of women’s fashion in the 1950s was shaped in part by the aftermath of World War II. The war had disrupted the fashion industry, and resources were scarce. Clothing had to be practical, durable, and conservative. Women were encouraged to wear military-style outfits, such as khaki slacks and jackets. But with the end of the war in 1945, fashion designers were eager to break with the austerity of the past and create something new.

  • The Designers Who Changed Everything

Coco Chanel was one of the first designers to embrace the new aesthetic. She created the “New Look,” which emphasized a dramatic hourglass figure with cinched-in waists, full skirts, and long, flowing lines. Christian Dior further popularized this style, making it accessible to women of all levels of society. The “New Look” was a sensation and was seen as a symbol of hope and renewal after the bleak years of the war.

The “New Look” was not just a fashion trend but a cultural phenomenon, embodying the post-war optimism and the desire for a return to normalcy.

The Defining Elements of 1950s Fashion

The 1950s marked the post-World War II era that led to a significant shift in the fashion industry. Women’s fashion in the 1950s emphasized a return to femininity, with an emphasis on clean lines, tailored designs, and bold patterns. This section explores the defining elements of 1950s fashion which are still influential today.


The silhouette of a dress or a piece of clothing describes its overall shape. In the 1950s, the hourglass silhouette was the most popular silhouette for women’s clothing. This was achieved by emphasizing the waistline, which was often cinched with a belt or a fitted bodice. The full skirt was also a defining feature of 1950s fashion. It was created by layering petticoats or crinolines underneath the dress to give it volume and shape.

The sheath dress was also an incredibly popular style in the 1950s. It was a simple, straight-cut dress that hugged the body’s curves without any additional volume. The sheath dress was worn for both formal and informal occasions and was often made with luxurious fabrics like silk or satin.


The 1950s saw a resurgence of interest in luxurious fabrics, with designers getting innovative by playing with new textures, colors, and prints. The most popular material of the era was silk, which was used for both formal and informal clothing. Cotton was also a popular choice, especially for casual wear. Pastel colors were popular during the spring and summer months, while richer colors like olive green and burgundy were used during the fall and winter.

Other fabrics included lace, tulle, wool, chiffon, and velvet. Synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester were also introduced during this era which allowed for easy care and affordable clothing for the masses.


Accessorizing was an important aspect of 1950s fashion, and the right accessories could make or break an outfit. Hats were extremely popular, especially for formal occasions. Pillbox hats, small hats worn on the top of the head with no brim, were introduced in the early 1950s and quickly became a fashion staple.

Gloves were also an important accessory and were worn for both practical and fashion purposes. They added an elegant touch to any outfit and were often made with leather, silk, or lace. Shoes were another notable accessory, with pumps being the most popular style of women’s shoes. They were usually made with leather and featured a low heel.

Jewelry played a crucial role in 1950s fashion, with pearls and rhinestones being particularly popular. Pearls were worn in the form of necklaces and earrings, while rhinestones were used as accessories in both formal and informal wear. Women also wore brooches, bracelets, and rings to complete their looks.

How to Incorporate 1950s Style into Your Modern Wardrobe

If you love the vintage charm of the 1950s fashion, you can easily incorporate its style into your modern wardrobe. Here are some tips to help you achieve that classic look:

1. Start with the Basics

The key to capturing the essence of the 1950s style is to first focus on its basic elements. This includes a-line dresses, high-waisted skirts, and fitted blouses. These staple pieces are versatile and can be dressed up or down based on the occasion. Plus, they are readily available in many stores that cater to retro fashion.

  • Look for dresses that have flared skirts and cinched waistlines for that ultimate feminine silhouette.
  • For skirts, high-waisted ones with a full skirt that flows outwards are the perfect choice for the ultimate vintage look.
  • Fitted blouses can be either sleeveless or with short sleeves, and they are perfect for pairing with the high-waisted bottoms.

2. Accessorize with Retro Pieces

Another way to add some 1950s flavor to your modern wardrobe is through retro accessories. These small touches can make a big impact on your overall outfit. Here are some accessories that were popular during the 1950s:

  • Pearl necklaces and earrings
  • Polka dot or checked scarves
  • Cat-eye sunglasses
  • Bows and headbands
  • Gloves and clutch bags

3. Mix and Match with Modern Pieces

To avoid looking like you’re wearing a costume, it’s crucial to balance your vintage pieces with modern clothing. Here are some examples of how to make vintage fashion work with contemporary trends:

  • Pair a pleated high-waisted skirt with a crop top or a denim jacket to make your outfit more current.
  • Wear a 1950s-style dress with a leather jacket and ankle boots to give it a modern edge.
  • Layer a fitted blouse under an oversized blazer for a professional look that still showcases your love for the 1950s fashion.

By mixing the old with the new, you can create a unique style that’s all your own while still honoring the retro fashion of the 1950s.

Hairstyles and Beauty Trends of the 1950s

The 1950s were a time of glamour and femininity in women’s fashion. The hair and beauty trends of this era were characterized by voluminous, coiffed styles and flawless makeup looks.


One of the most iconic hairstyles of the 1950s was the bouffant. This style involved backcombing the hair at the crown of the head to create volume, and then smoothing it out over the back and sides of the head. Another popular look was the beehive, which was similar to the bouffant but with a more pointed shape at the crown.

To recreate these styles today, start by blow-drying your hair with a round brush to create volume. Then, tease the hair at the crown of your head and smooth it out over the back and sides. You can use hairspray and bobby pins to keep the style in place.

Beauty Trends

Makeup in the 1950s was all about a flawless, porcelain complexion with bold accents. Red lipstick was a must-have, often paired with winged eyeliner and false lashes. And let’s not forget about the beauty mark. Marilyn Monroe made the mole above her upper lip a fashion statement!

To achieve this look, start with a foundation that matches your skin tone and blend it well. Next, use a liquid or gel eyeliner to create a winged shape at the outer corner of your eye. Finish with two coats of mascara and a bold red lipstick.

Icons of 1950s Fashion

The 1950s was an era of glamour and elegance in women’s fashion. The post-war period brought a renewed sense of hope and optimism. Women’s clothing reflected this with designs that were feminine, flattering, and sophisticated. Here are five of the most iconic fashion figures of the 1950s:

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe was the ultimate sex symbol of the 1950s. Her hourglass figure and sultry style made her the epitome of Hollywood glamour. Monroe’s most famous outfit is undoubtedly the white halter-neck dress she wore in the movie “The Seven Year Itch.” The dress has since become an iconic piece of fashion history.

Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel was not strictly a 1950s fashion icon, but her legacy certainly lived on throughout the decade. Chanel’s classic designs, such as the little black dress, were popular in the 1950s, and her influence on fashion is still felt today. Chanel’s emphasis on simplicity and comfort revolutionized women’s fashion in the early 20th century, and her iconic designs have stood the test of time.

Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly was an American actress who became Princess of Monaco after her marriage to Prince Rainier III in 1956. Kelly’s classic, elegant style made her a fashion icon of the 1950s. Her wedding dress, designed by Helen Rose, is still considered one of the most iconic wedding dresses of all time.

Dior’s “New Look”

The “New Look” created by Christian Dior in 1947 continued to influence fashion well into the 1950s. The New Look emphasized a full, feminine silhouette, with nipped-in waists and full skirts that fell to mid-calf. This design concept represented a dramatic departure from the boxy, masculine look of the wartime era, and it helped to usher in a new era of glamour and femininity in women’s fashion.

Lucille Ball

Lucille Ball was already an established actress in the 1950s when her television show, “I Love Lucy,” made her a household name. Ball’s character, Lucy, was known for her glamorous and playful approach to fashion. Lucy’s brightly colored dresses and retro-chic hairstyles have become synonymous with 1950s fashion.

Where to Shop for Vintage and Vintage-Inspired 1950s Fashion

The fashion industry has been evolving for years, and as the saying goes, everything that goes out of style eventually comes back. The 1950s were a time of glamour and sophistication, and the fashion industry was no exception. Women in the 1950s dressed in fashionable clothes that accentuated their curves and femininity. If you’re a fan of vintage fashion, it’s time to relive those moments. Here are a few places to shop for vintage and vintage-inspired 1950s fashion pieces:

1. Online Vintage Stores

The Internet is at the forefront of vintage shopping, where you can explore and shop from various stores. Online vintage stores offer a wide variety of 1950s fashion pieces, from bold prints to classic dresses. A few online stores that you can check out are:

  • The Real Real – This online store offers vintage clothing for all ages, genders, and styles.
  • ASOS Marketplace – This store has a vast collection of vintage and retro-inspired fashion pieces.
  • Beyond Retro – With its collection of exclusive and authentic vintage clothes, Beyond Retro is one of the best places to shop for 1950s fashion pieces online.

2. Local Vintage Boutiques

Shopping for vintage clothing is an experience that you should enjoy. Visit your local vintage boutiques to check out the latest inventory of 1950s fashion pieces. Shopping at local boutiques also supports small businesses in your community. It’s a win-win!

3. Thrift Stores

Most thrift stores have a vintage section where you can find unique and affordable 1950s fashion pieces. You’ll be surprised at what you can find in these thrift stores. It could be your next fashion statement.

4. Consignment Stores

Consignment stores are a great place to shop for vintage and vintage-inspired fashion pieces. They offer a mix of second-hand and new clothes that are stylish and affordable. You can find everything from 1950s dresses to accessories.

5. Antique Shops and Vintage Fairs

Antique shops and vintage fairs are a treasure trove of vintage clothing. You can find anything from rare and unique pieces to affordable fashion items. Attend local vintage fairs and antique shops in your area for an enjoyable afternoon of shopping.

6. Reproduction Companies

If you want to wear 1950s fashion pieces but find it hard to source authentic vintage clothes, consider reproduction companies. Reproduction companies offer new clothes, accessories, and shoes that were inspired by the fashion style of the 1950s.

One such company is Unique Vintage. They offer a broad selection of vintage-inspired clothing, shoes, and accessories. Other companies that you can check out include Pinup Girl Clothing and Stop Staring Clothing.

Frequently Asked Questions

Questions Answers
Can I still wear 1950s style today? Of course! Fashion is all about personal style and expressing yourself, so mix and match old and new pieces for a fresh take on a classic look.
Where can I find authentic 1950s clothing? Vintage stores, thrift shops, and online marketplaces like Etsy are great places to start your search for authentic pieces. Alternatively, many modern brands offer 1950s-inspired clothing with a contemporary twist.
What were some popular 1950s fashion accessories? Some popular accessories included gloves, hats, scarves, and jewelry like brooches and pearls. Handbags and shoes were also important finishing touches to any outfit.
How can I create a 1950s makeup look? A 1950s makeup look typically included bold red lips, winged eyeliner, and a matte complexion. There are many tutorials available online, and it can be helpful to invest in quality vintage-inspired makeup products.
What were some common fabrics used in 1950s fashion? Some common fabrics included cotton, wool, silk, and rayon. Prints like polka dots and gingham were popular, as well as pastel shades like pink, blue, and yellow.
What were some iconic 1950s fashion trends? Iconic fashion trends of the 1950s included the “New Look” silhouette, poodle skirts, saddle shoes, and capri pants. Dresses with full skirts and fitted waists were also popular, as were high-waisted shorts and swimsuits.

Thank You for Reliving the Classic!

Thank you for joining us on this journey through the iconic fashion trends of the 1950s. Whether you’re a vintage enthusiast or just looking to add some retro flair to your wardrobe, we hope you found some inspiration and helpful tips. Remember – fashion is all about embracing your personal style and having fun with it! Don’t forget to check back for more fashion articles and trends coming your way.

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