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The Fabulous 50’s – The Clothes

50s clothes

As I mentioned last week, I’ve been lost in the 1950s. When I think of the ’50s, I think poodles skirts and ponytails, but—like any other decade—one size did not fit all. In the early ’50s, the world had finished one war and found themselves in another (Korean War), so there was still some…darkness…in fashions early in the decade. But the Korean War ended in 1953 and at least here in the US, things began to lighten up a lot. 

Generally, in the 1950s a housewife’s appearance was linked to her husband’s success so keeping up with fashion trends was a serious business. Women strove to appear chic when relaxing, partying, or even cleaning the house. In turn, this era was an iconic time with bold colors and new silhouettes.

For example, in the mid-1950s, Christian Dior modernized the middle eastern caftan with an open front version that soon became a highly popular fashion staple. Another fashion trend of the day were playsuits—a button-down dress or skirt worn over a matching one-piece top and shorts. In the 1950s women’s full-length slacks that fell right above the ankle were called cigarette pants. Those that only fell to the mid-calf were called Capri pants. Both were high-waisted, with a slim leg. Clam diggers or pedal pushers were knee-length, and Bermuda shorts fell just above the knee. They all zipped up the side, not in the front like men’s pants.

In the 1950ss ladies’ swimsuits were designed for both modesty and sex appeal. Ruching across the body enhanced hourglass figures. Skirts over the hips covered a tummy bulge or a plump tush. Bubble skirted bathing suits flattered the lower half of the feminine body while strapless ones drew the eye to the upper half. Two-piece bikinis only revealed a few inches of bare skin between the top and skirted bottom and kept the belly button fully covered. 

There were two basic dress styles:

  • Circle or Swing dresses—with full skirts cut from a round piece of fabric
  • Pencil or Wiggle dresses—form-fitting sheath styles

Both were shin-length with high, narrow waistlines typically cinched with thin matching belts. Skirts of both types were paired with snug-fitting tailored blouses or short knit tops. 

Blouses were always tucked in and the knits just topped the hips. Choice colors and prints of the day were red, blue, pink, teal, black, and gingham checks, small prints, or polka dots. Some were adorned with pintucks, ruffles, bows, embroidery or pearl buttons.  Neck scarfs were a favorite accessory to compliment knit tops and sweaters. Sweater girl was a term used for young women whose sweaters were snug and sexy yet still modest. 

Types of swing and sheath dresses included coatdresses, jumpers, bell, and tulip dresses. For dinner parties or a night on the town, a black dress in silk, taffeta, lace, damask, or velvet was a sophisticated choice. Cocktail dresses were accessorized with pumps, long or short gloves, matching envelope purses, shiny jewelry or pearls, and sometimes a small hat. 

Glamorous floor-length ballgowns or long, sexy tube gowns including mermaid and Grecian styles were worn at more formal events.  Prom-dresses were usually tea length and strapless or sleeveless, with layers of net, tulle, or organdy so they swished and swayed when dancing. 

poodle skirt

Used with permission.

The poodle skirt started in the late ’40s but was most popular with teenage girls in and 1952 there were catalogs dedicated to the fashion trend. But poodle skirts didn’t just feature poodles! Their main point was to tell a story or reflect the wearer’s interests. (My mom had a poodle skirt!)

Many 50s fashions remain timeless classics, still popular today, because they’re fun and flirty and flatter a woman’s figure.

This video shows styles of the ’40s and ’50s. If you want to see the 50’s only, it’s about halfway through. 

And here’s a video of still photos from the ’50s. Very interesting because they aren’t models, but real people.

What is your favorite part of the fabulous ’50s?

Perilously yours,


P.S. Stay tuned to find out why I’m stuck in the ’50s! 2020 is going to be fab!

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