The Fashion of the Fifties Edit

The decades after World War II were refreshing times in music, entertainment, and lifestyle, and ladies’ fashion of the fifties was no exception. War times introduced fabric rations and many women handmade clothes for themselves and their families. However, with the war over, and fewer restrictions on materials, the people of the fifties opened the doors to new styles.

Shapes Edit

Before the war, there was only one silhouette to women’s clothing: straight and shapeless. Most ladies wore long dresses with no fullness. During the time after the war ended, there were two typical styles to an ideal woman’s shape: the circle skirt and the sheath style dress. The circle skirt was full and usually worn with a crinoline or multiple petticoats to build up volume, while the sheath dress was thinner, and clung more to the body, but still left ample room for the legs. Most dresses and skirts had knee-length hems or ended mid-calf (also referred to as tea-length).

Trends Edit

In the years prior to World War II, popular trends included puffy sleeves and wide, embellished collars. After the war, trends changed and included small waists, larger busts, and intense color coordination. Many ladies added accessories (such as jewelry, scarves, clutches, and gloves) to their outfit. High heels or pumps were widely worn with every style of dress.

Types of Clothing Edit

Most women had dresses for three different occasions. They had formal dresses, day dresses (commonly known as housewife dresses), and business attire.

Formal dresses used interesting fabrics like tulle, chiffon, and satin, and incorporated many unique elements and embellishments. These types of dresses were typically worn by celebrities, or for special events. Many women looked to artists of the day for the latest trends and styles. Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, and Audrey Hepburn were just some of the more popular icons.

Day dresses were worn mostly by housewives. They were designed to be versatile enough for women to clean and do housework in, yet still be presentable enough to go out for errands in, or take in unexpected guests. These were usually made of cotton, linen, or wool. Day dresses are most commonly identified as dresses with full skirts Aprons were usually worn with a day dress to protect the skirt of the dress while cleaning.

Business clothes usually took on the appearance of the sheath style. These consisted of a blouse with a suit jacket and matching skirt set. These suit and skirt sets were usually one solid color, but occasionally featured patterns.

Conclusion Edit

Although it’s been over sixty years since these styles were most popular, the refreshing styles of the mid-century show us that even after times of hardships and trials, there is always an opportunity for a new start.

Footnotes Edit

Written by ElsaRose01 ( for Abeka Academy. Used with permission. Prohibited for unaccredited use in reports, either scholastic or extracurricular.

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