Fashions in the 50s began with a strong dose of post-war conservatism and over the decade, became influenced by the birth of Rock 'n' Roll and the abundance of teenagers in the later half of the decade. The youth culture that blossomed in the 1960s was beginning to take root.
In the early 1950s, a trim quiet look was in vogue for men. Dark colors and shades of blues, browns and gray took over the scene. In 1953 the gray flannel suit began its reign. It was in 1953 that President Eisenhower refused to bow to tradition at his inauguration and chose to wear a jacket and homburg with his striped trousers instead of the usual top hat and cutaway. Looking back on his decision, it now seems merely to be the choice of a man who wanted more informality and a less rigid way of dealing with ordinary affairs. Young men, hoping to look like movie idols, wore black leather jackets, blue jeans, and white t-shirts.
Women's clothing included cashmere sweaters, poodle skirts, pedal pushers, and scarves. As the rock and roll era took hold, ponytails, saddle shoes, penny loafers, and colored sneakers became popular for teenaged bobby-soxers. Sandals, ballet slippers, and other casual footwear became increasingly fashionable, as pool parties and other casual outdoor activities became popular.
Consumerism became more popular in the 1950s, as the post-war boom provided a sense of economic optimism. New gadgets and gizmos proclaimed that the future had arrived. Homemaking became less time-consuming with the new electric stoves, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, and the like. Women could now concentrate on making a comfortable home for their families, and still have time to have a life outside of the kitchen.
For the affluent, cocktail parties and other social events required dressing up. Christian Dior's 'New Look' influenced fashion, but so did the conservative elegance of Coco Chanel. Charles Jourdan introduced a new kind of shoe style, the stiletto heel, in 1951. As time went on the goal was for the slimmest possible heel, eliminating earlier "chunky" styles. The pump was the basic shoe, but its toes might be cut, the vamps curved or cut in enticing 'V's, or the heels molded into a variety of shapes. Every color of the rainbow was used; shoes were intended to match an outfit perfectly.
Published in sections: The Fifties :: Return to Article List