The Victoria & Albert Museum in their “Introduction to 20th-Century Fashion” writes of this period:

“By 1950 revivalist styles, so evident in women’s fashions, also invaded the most exclusive levels of menswear. The smart single-breasted grey wool `Edwardian’ suit from 1951 – bowler hat, fitted jacket and tapered trousers worn with waisted overcoat and velvet collar – reveals this brief trend. This was to become the source for Teddy boy street styles.”

Of  1950s womenswear specifically they write:

“The 1950s continued the late 1940s style with very full skirts, cinched waists and sloping shoulders. Another popular silhouette was the narrow pencil-skirt look. Daywear consisted of skirts and jackets or day dresses in tweeds and woollens. Dresses with pencil or full skirts were seen in either plain fabrics or floral prints. Separates were popular, especially waist length cardigans. Hats were either small pill-box styles or large brimmed, saucer-like hats. Hair was often cropped quite short and set in curls, or kept long and tied in simple chignons or ponytails at the back.”

1950s Fashion

Fig. 1 - Photographer unknown. 1950s Fashion, ca. 1950. Source: Pinterest


Of 1950s menswear the V&A notes:

“Men’s fashions still revolved around the suit. Grey flannel suits were common, worn with shirt, tie and pocket handkerchief. Tweed or check jackets worn with non-matching trousers were also popular, and open collars were permitted for casual wear. Hair was worn with a side parting but slicked back with ‘Brill cream’. Teenagers began to appear as a separate group during the 1950s. Their fashions were influenced by American stars, who wore leather jackets and jeans. The Teddy Boys, who wore pointed shoes, tight trousers and long jackets with velvet trim, were also a significant teenage group.”



Historical Context

Wikipedia: 1950-1959
  • 1950 – Father of the Bride, starring Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor, is released. The lace wedding dress worn by Taylor in the movie is considered one of her most iconic books.
  • 1951 – American disc jockey Alan Freed popularizes the term “Rock ‘n’ roll.” New teen styles emerge linked to the music, such as “Teddy boys” and prom dresses.
  • 1952 – Jack Kerouac publishes On the Road, which inspires a generation of beatniks who wear slim-fitting, black clothes, berets, and dark glasses. Audrey Hepburn’s Funny Face in 1957 further popularizes the style. Balenciaga shows the sack dress, an early stylistic move toward looser-fitting garments, which appear in the late 1950s and 60s, and include cocoon coats and shift dresses.
  • 1953 – Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and London couturiers including John Cavanagh, Victor Stiebel, and Mattli make ball gowns for guests at coronation balls and dances. The Wild One is released; Marlon Brando’s representation of disaffected youth popularizes blue jeans and leather jackets. Pierre Cardin shows his first collection in Paris.
  • 1954 – Easy-to-wash and easy-to-dry nylon twin sets advertised in British Vogue fashion magazine.
  • 1955 – Rebel Without a Cause is released, launching its star, James Dean, as a style icon for the rising youth culture. His death a year later cements his legendary status. Stiletto heels are popular by the mid- 1950s aided by new technology. Ultra-thin, ultra-high steel heels could sustain great pressure in comparison to wood heels. Mary Quant opens her influential store, Bazaar, in London.
  • 1956 – Movie star Grace Kelly marries Prince Rainier of Monaco in a religious ceremony, wearing a lace wedding dress designed by Helen Rose.
  • 1957- Jailhouse Rock, starring Elvis Presley, marks the spread of rock- and-roll style.
  • 1958 – The youthful Yves Saint Laurent shows his first collection at Dior- Trapeze- after Dior’s death in 1957.
  • 1959- Debut of Barbie doll, marketed as a “Teen-age Fashion Model.” Lycra, also known as spandex or elastane, is invented. It revolutionizes performance sportswear and then fashionable dress.

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