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Step Back in Time: Exploring 1950s Fashion

ladies from the 1950s posing in 1950s dresses

Key Highlights

  • The 1950s fashion was characterised by a clear gender divide, with men's fashion becoming more casual and women's style prioritising elegance and formality.

  • The decade saw the rise of the iconic hourglass silhouette, popularised by Christian Dior's "New Look" in 1947.

  • Post society had a significant impact on fashion, with casual wear becoming more prevalent and the silhouette evolving to reflect a more relaxed and natural look.

  • Women's fashion in the 1950s defined by key characteristics such as full skirts, vintage dresses, and perfectly matched accessories.

  • Iconic women's fashion of the era included the hourglass silhouette and the style of 50 s fashion icons like Elizabeth Taylor.

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The 1950s not only left an indelible mark on fashion history but also revolutionised the way people dressed and expressed themselves. Christian Dior's groundbreaking "new look" defined this era with its emphasis on feminine silhouettes, nipped-in waists, and full skirts, bringing a sense of glamour and elegance to post-war fashion. This decade was a time of transition from the austerity of wartime clothing to a more luxurious and opulent style.


Women's fashion in the 1950s was characterised by a return to traditional gender roles, with women embracing a more ladylike appearance. The hourglass figure was idealised, leading to the popularity of cinched waistlines and voluminous skirts. Pastel colours, floral prints, and polka dots were commonly seen in dresses, while accessories like gloves, pearls, and kitten heels completed the polished look.


Men's fashion also underwent significant changes during this period. The clean-cut, well-tailored aesthetic dominated men's wardrobes, influenced by Hollywood icons such as James Dean and Cary Grant. Suits became slimmer and more structured, emphasising broad shoulders and narrow waists. Casual wear saw the rise of preppy styles like polo shirts paired with khakis or jeans.


The 50s marked a shift towards individuality and self-expression through clothing. It was a time when fashion became more accessible to the masses through ready-to-wear collections and department stores. This era laid the foundation for many enduring trends that continue to influence contemporary fashion today.

The Dawn of 1950s Fashion

1950s fashion marked a turning point with the introduction of the "New Look" by Christian Dior in 1947. The post-war era brought a yearning for glamour and elegance, inspiring full skirts and cinched waists. This silhouette, a stark contrast to wartime austerity, symbolised a new beginning in fashion. The early 50s saw designers like Claire McCardell and Charles James gaining prominence alongside Dior and Balenciaga, as well as Chanel, who made her grand return in 1954 with her iconic suits in springy jerseys cut in straight, unfussy lines. This marked the dawn of a new era in fashion.

1950s fashion advertisement from Claire McCardell

The Impact of Post-War Society on 50 s Fashion

The impact of post-war society on fashion in the 1950s was profound as it marked a significant shift in clothing styles. The end of World War II brought a newfound optimism, reflected in the fashion trends of the era. Designers like Christian Dior introduced the "New Look," featuring full skirts and nipped-in waists, symbolising a return to femininity and luxury after years of austerity during the war. This era saw a departure from utilitarian clothing towards more elegant and structured designs, with influences from fashion capital Paris.

Key Characteristics of 1950s Style

The 1950s style was epitomised by the "New Look" introduced by Christian Dior, characterised by full skirts and nipped-in waists. Women's fashion embraced elegance with tailored silhouettes and feminine details, influenced by icons like Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn. Men favoured tailored suits inspired by Savile Row tailors, channeling sophistication akin to Prince Rainier of Monaco. This era marked the rise of iconic figures like Marlon Brando and James Dean, who popularised casual yet stylish ensembles, shaping the essence of 1950s fashion.

Dior New Look 1950s My Vintage.webp

Iconic 1950s Women's Fashion

The iconic women's fashion of the 1950s was epitomised by the hourglass silhouette, a style that accentuated the waist and curves. This era saw the rise of celebrated outfits like full skirts and tailored suits, often adorned with feminine details. Women looked to style icons such as Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly for fashion inspiration, while designers like Christian Dior and Hubert de Givenchy set trends with their vintage dresses and elegant designs, shaping the essence of 1950s fashion.

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The Hourglass Silhouette and Its Significance

The hourglass silhouette epitomised 1950s fashion, accentuating women's curves with a nipped waist and full skirts. This shape, popularised by Dior's "New Look" in the 1940s, symbolised femininity and glamour after the austere wartime years. Embracing elegance, vintage dresses exuded sophistication with defined waists and voluminous bottoms. This iconic style, donned by stars like Elizabeth Taylor, continues to inspire modern fashion, showcasing the enduring allure of the hourglass figure.

Celebrated Women's Outfits and Trends

In the 1950s, women's fashion saw a resurgence of elegance and femininity, with iconic styles that are celebrated to this day. The era embraced the "New Look" introduced by Christian Dior, featuring full skirts and fitted waists. Women adorned themselves in vintage dresses with floral patterns and pastel colours. Casual wear included tailored trousers and classic blouses, reflecting a balance between sophistication and practicality. Accessories such as pearls and gloves added a touch of glamour to everyday outfits, embodying the essence of 1950s fashion trends.

Men's Fashion in the 1950s

In the 1950s, men's fashion underwent a significant evolution, transitioning from utility-focused garments to more stylish attire. With influences from iconic figures like Marlon Brando and James Dean, the era saw a shift towards rebellious yet sophisticated looks. The rise of the Teddy Boys in the UK brought about a blend of dapper tailoring and rock 'n' roll edge. Savile Row in London and tailors like Hubert de Givenchy played pivotal roles in defining the prominence of tailored suits and trousers during this period.

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From Utility to Style - The Evolution of Men's Wear

In the post-war era, men's fashion underwent a remarkable transformation from purely utilitarian to stylish statements. The 1950s saw a shift towards more tailored and polished looks, influenced by figures like Marlon Brando and James Dean. The concept of casual wear started gaining momentum, marking a departure from the formal attire of previous decades. This evolution was also seen in the rise of iconic tailors like those on London's Savile Row, who played a pivotal role in shaping men's fashion into a blend of functionality and sophistication.

Influential Male Fashion Icons of the Decade

Influential male fashion icons of the decade such as Marlon Brando and James Dean revolutionised the 1950s fashion scene with their rebellious yet iconic styles. These stars popularised casual wear like leather jackets and jeans, inspiring a generation of young men. Their rugged masculinity and effortless charm made them symbols of cool, influencing the way men dressed for years to come. The impact of these actors transcended the silver screen, leaving a lasting imprint on fashion and culture.

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Accessories That Defined the Era

Accessories in the 1950s played a pivotal role in completing the iconic looks of the era. Women adorned themselves with pearls, gloves, and structured handbags to complement their outfits. Scarves and headbands served as fashionable additions. Men embraced fedora hats, pocket squares, and suspenders to add flair to their ensembles. These accessories not only added sophistication but also reflected the elegance and attention to detail characteristic of the 1950s fashion scene.

Must-Have Accessories for Women

Pearls were a quintessential accessory for 1950s women, reflecting elegance and sophistication. Long gloves added glamour to evening ensembles, while small structured handbags complemented daytime looks. Winged sunglasses and silk scarves were popular for a touch of flair. Pointed-toe heels and kitten heels were the go-to shoe choices, enhancing the overall refined appearance. These accessories truly encapsulated the essence of 1950s fashion, elevating outfits with a timeless charm and grace.

Essential Men's Accessories for a Complete 1950s Look

To embody the quintessential 50s charm, men adorned themselves with key accessories. The era demanded polished outfits complemented by suave additions. Topping the list were sleek fedora hats and classic wayfarer sunglasses. Leather belts and pocket squares were essential for a sophisticated touch. Not to forget the timeless allure of suspenders and pocket watches, adding a dash of debonair elegance to any ensemble. These accessories were the finishing touches that elevated men's fashion to new heights during the iconic 1950s era.

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The Influence of Cinema and Celebrities on 1950s Fashion

Hollywood celebrities and iconic films played a pivotal role in shaping 1950s fashion trends. Movie stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn became fashion symbols, inspiring women to emulate their sophisticated styles. James Dean and Marlon Brando popularised the rebellious, casual look embraced by many men. Moreover, the glamour of Grace Kelly and the elegance of Audrey Hepburn in films influenced not only clothing choices but also hair and makeup trends, setting the stage for the modern celebrity-driven fashion culture.

Movie Stars as Fashion Icons

Movie stars of the 1950s, such as Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean, played a significant role in shaping fashion trends. Elizabeth Taylor's glamorous and sophisticated style made her a fashion icon, with women emulating her elegant and feminine looks. James Dean, on the other hand, popularised a more rebellious and edgy style, with his signature combination of a white t-shirt, jeans, and red jacket becoming a symbol of teenage rebellion. Both Taylor and Dean influenced the fashion choices of young people in the 50s and their impact can still be seen today.

Films That Shaped 1950s Outfits

Several films of the 1950s had a significant impact on fashion trends. Marlon Brando's portrayal of a rebellious biker in "The Wild One" popularised the leather jacket and jeans look, which became synonymous with youth culture. Elvis Presley's role in "Jailhouse Rock" brought rock 'n' roll style to the forefront, with his pompadour hairstyle and flashy outfits inspiring a generation. These films challenged traditional notions of style and influenced the fashion choices of young people in the 50s. The fashion trends depicted in these films continue to resonate with contemporary fashion, with leather jackets and rock 'n' roll-inspired looks remaining popular.

1950s image of Elvis Pressley dancing

Transitioning Trends: Late 1950s Fashion Shifts

In the late 1950s, fashion saw a shift towards more casual and youth-oriented styles. Youth subcultures like the Teddy Boys in Britain and the Beatniks in the United States emerged, challenging traditional fashion norms. The Teddy Boys adopted a working-class style, with narrow trousers, velvet-collared jackets, and greased-back hair. The Beatniks, on the other hand, embraced a more bohemian and literary-inspired look, with black clothing and berets. These subcultures influenced 1950s fashion and set the stage for the more relaxed and rebellious styles of the following decades.

The Introduction of the 'Beatnik' Style

The Beatnik style emerged in the late 1950s and was characterised by its bohemian and intellectual aesthetic. Inspired by the writings of Jack Kerouac and other Beat Generation authors, Beatnik fashion embraced a more relaxed and non-conformist approach. The style often featured black clothing, berets, turtleneck sweaters, and dark sunglasses. It rejected the formal and polished looks of the time and instead embraced a more casual and individualistic aesthetic. The Beatnik style had a profound influence on fashion and culture, and its legacy can still be seen today in the continued popularity of dark and minimalist fashion trends.

The Legacy of 1950s Fashion in Modern Times

The legacy of 1950s fashion can still be seen in modern times. Vintage dresses and vintage-inspired designs continue to be popular, with their elegant and feminine silhouettes appealing to fashion enthusiasts. The influence of 1950s fashion can also be seen in the use of retro prints and colours in contemporary designs. Additionally, the blending of vintage and modern elements has resulted in the revival of 1950s trends with a modern twist, making 1950s dresses a must-have in any wardrobe. The timeless appeal of 1950s fashion continues to inspire designers and fashion lovers alike.

1950s style women in 1950s fashion

How Contemporary Fashion Draws from the 1950s

Contemporary fashion draws inspiration from the 1950s in various ways. Vintage dresses, with their fit-and-flare silhouettes and feminine details, continue to be popular among fashion enthusiasts. Designers often incorporate elements of 50 s fashion into their collections, such as full skirts, nipped-in waists, and retro prints. The influence of 1950s fashion can also be seen in the use of vintage-inspired accessories, such as cat-eye sunglasses and pearl jewellery. By paying homage to the fashion of the past, contemporary fashion creates a sense of nostalgia while adding a modern twist to classic styles.

Reviving Vintage 50's Clothing with a Modern Twist

Reviving 1950s trends with a modern twist has become a popular approach in contemporary fashion. Designers often reinterpret vintage styles, incorporating them into their collections with a contemporary sensibility. Fifties style dresses, for example, may feature updated prints or fabrics, giving a nod to the past while still feeling fresh and current. The use of retro elements, such as full skirts and high-waisted trousers, adds a touch of nostalgia to modern outfits. By blending vintage aesthetics with modern design, fashion designers create looks that are both timeless and fashion-forward.


The 1950s marked a significant period of change in the fashion world, reflecting the societal transformations and cinematic influences following World War II. This era introduced the iconic hourglass silhouette and witnessed the rise of various youth subcultures, leaving an enduring impact on fashion. Even today, modern fashion continues to pay homage to the elegance and allure of 1950s styles, infusing them with contemporary elements for a fresh twist. By delving into the history of fashion, one can witness how trends from the past continue to resonate in our current wardrobes, showcasing a seamless blend of tradition and innovation. For further captivating insights into the ever-evolving realm of fashion, be sure to explore other engaging blog posts on our website.

Lady from the 1950s dressed in 1950s fashion

Frequently Asked Questions

What Makes 1950s Fashion Unique?

The unique aspect of 1950s fashion is its emphasis on the feminine silhouette, with nipped-in waists and full skirts. The era is also known for its elegance and formality, with women prioritising perfectly matched accessories and groomed appearances.

Which designers were prominent in the 1950s fashion scene?

Some of the prominent designers in the 1950s fashion scene were Christian Dior, Hubert de Givenchy, and Cristobal Balenciaga. They played a significant role in shaping the fashion trends of the era.

What were some key fashion trends of the 1950s?

Some key trends of 1950s fashion included the full skirt, hourglass silhouette, and the growing popularity of casual wear. The era also saw the emergence of youth subcultures and their unique styles.

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