Women’s fashion in the 1950s took on a feminine, playful and often glamorous persona. New materials and production methods enabled clothes influenced by Paris couture to be made with ease and economy. Cocktail dresses were popular for evening occasions and hooped skirts with flat shoes and socks provided a casual, comfortable daytime alternative.

Changing Times

To understand women’s fashion of the 1950s, it is helpful to consider the context. During WWII and for some time after, materials had been in short supply. When they became abundant again during the 50s, designers made the most of it by creating full-skirted designs and using luxurious fabrics. The war had also necessitated the creation of new materials, such as nylon and lycra, which could be used for stockings. One other thing the war had changed was the position of women in society. Many had taken jobs in factories, hospitals or even with the army, and this new-found independence and activity was reflected in the popularity of cropped pants for ladies. Even glamorous style icons such as Audrey Hepburn were often seen wearing them.

Casual Clothes

Although 1950s day wear was casual, it was still used to emphasize the female shape. Women tucked blouses and T-shirts into full skirts, showing off tiny waists and making their hips seem fuller. Jackets and tops were generally fitted to provide a contrast with the flowing skirts that were popular. Capri pants were worn with the same tops. Capri pants were popular during the 50s and would be worn tight around the waist and a little looser on the leg to preserve the wearer’s modesty and comfort.

Evening Wear

Cocktail dresses in sumptuous fabrics often appeared with large bustle bows, roses, lace and other feminine touches. The skirts were full for dancing in, with fitted top sections or bodices. These dresses were generally about mid-calf length, but longer options, including straighter, more sophisticated styles and full ball gowns, were also fashionable. As the decade progressed, evening wear alternated between straighter and fuller styles.

Flats And Heels

Ballet flats with white socks were the fashionable choice for casual outfits. These were comfortable to wear and allowed for easy movement for women and young girls. For evening wear, or on smarter occasions, stiletto heels were chosen to accentuate the legs. These shoes were higher and the heels slimmer than had previously been fashionable. Black patent leather was the most common material for these stilettos.