The 1950s was a time of great fashion innovation, with styles ranging from the feminine and elegant to the edgy and rebellious. Today, 1950s style remains popular, and it is possible to dress in this iconic fashion on the high street. In this article, I’ll give you some tips on how to dress in a 1950s style on the high street.
Start with a classic silhouette
The 1950s was characterized by feminine silhouettes that accentuated the waistline and emphasized an hourglass figure. The two main silhouettes to try and achieve are the wasp waist with either a full skirt or pencil skirt. Both of these looks are iconic, and can easily be dressed up to be sensual or flirty depending on your mood. To emphasise your nipped in waist, look for tops that have wide, soft shoulders. Belts and shape wear are good ways to make your warriors even smaller and were common tools in the fashionable fifties.
Full skirts and petticoats
Wide circle skirts were a popular choice for many in the 1950s, and to get that signature poof a petticoat was worn. They would give lift and volume to a filler skirt and are essential to get that 50s vibe. Look out for tiered petticoats that end mid-calf in pastel tones – make sure your skirt is long enough to cover it – petticoats were considered to be undergarments so one wouldn’t have them on show!
Also known as hobble skirts, pencil skirts were slim fitting to mid-calf, creating that signature “wiggle” when a woman walked. Pencil skirts began at the natural waist and would fall in a straight line, skimming the hips and usually having some extra fabric behind the back slit. In old sewing patterns, this extra rectangle of fabric is sometimes known as a Dior pleat. Dresses with a pencil line to the skirt were very popular too – especially with the adult crowd.
Common designs in 1950s clothing to look out for
- One and two piece dresses with small collared, fitted blouse and full, pleated skirts that reached to mid-calf
- Casual dresses with tied shoulder straps and halter straps, boned bodices, and the classic circle skirt
- Similarly fitted dresses for evening wear that had an opaque strapless bodices with sheer silk or nylon overblouse worn with it. The overblouse usually has long, full sleeves or can be sleeveless
- Prom “cupcake” dresses in pastel tulle that are bedecked with trims, ruffles and velvet bows.
- Long sleeved cardigans that have a plain, ribbed neck and can be beaded or appliquéd
Choose the right fabrics
The 1950s was a time of great fabric innovation, with new synthetic materials like polyester and nylon becoming popular. However, natural fabrics like cotton and silk were still used. For the daytime, look out for natural fabrics, rayon, nylon, poly-cotton for dresses, blouse and skirts and acrylic and cashmere for knitwear. Evening what is more luxurious so keep your eyes peeled for satin, velvet, netting, tulle and chiffon.
Vintage blouses would usually be very feminine with floral and lace being popular. Sweaters and other knitwear works also come in sets. Twinsets are a type of top thread was popular during the 1950s. A knitted, short-sleeved top was worn with a cardigan in the same colour and is a lovely way to stay warm during spring and autumn.
Accessorise with vintage-inspired pieces
Accessories are an important part of any outfit, and in the 1950s, accessories were used to add a touch of glamour to outfits. Vintage-inspired jewelry, handbags, and shoes can help you achieve a 1950s look. Look for pieces with pearl accents, rhinestones, and classic shoe shapes like pumps, loafers, and Mary Janes.
Handbags in the “Kelly” shape are great for day use and beaded clutch purses are great for nights out. Raffia was a popular choice for summer, so look out for basket bags during warm weather.
For jewellery, matching earrings, brooches and necklaces are an easy way to tie things together. Pearls and rhinestones were the most popular, so keep your eyes out for something similar.
For other items , pearls, gold tones and gemstones were very popular. Most gold jewellery would have details such as etching to provide interest and texture. Earrings were usually pearl studs or chandelier in style.
Play with prints and colours
The 1950s was known for its playful prints and bold colours. Polka dots, gingham, harlequin and floral prints were popular, and other clothing would include embroidered or beaded detail.
For daytime, neutral solids and florals are a good place to start, and futuristic atomic style print also a good way to get a fifties look. For colder weather, dark colours like brown, gray and navy look classically 50s. Evening wear is again more daring, with bold and subtle colours becoming more popular. Peacock blue and hot pink was extremely popular choice so those colours are ideal.
Monochromatic looks, with shades of the same colour throughout looks chic and is a charming way to look like you’ve just stepped out of a vintage edition of Vogue.
Don’t forget the hair and makeup
No 1950s-inspired outfit is complete without the right hair and makeup. Experiment with hairstyles like victory rolls, a wet set of curls, a classic up-do, or a bouffant. For makeup, focus on a flawless complexion with rosy cheeks, bold eyebrows, and a bold lip colour. Don’t forget eyeshadow to match your eye colour for a 50s inspired look.
In conclusion, dressing in a 1950s style on the high street is easy with the right tips and tricks. Start with a classic silhouette, choose natural fabrics, accessorize with vintage-inspired pieces, play with prints and colors, and don’t forget the hair and makeup. With these tips, you can achieve a timeless and elegant look that pays homage to one of fashion’s most iconic eras. Don’t forget to have fun! You don’t need to dress in top to toe vintage to get a vintage look.