1950's Fashion Term Paper

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1950s Fashions

Fashion and makeup trends in the 1950s reflected shifts in popular culture and were heavily influenced by film stars and television. A thriving youth culture contributed to changes in fashion, which were generally less conservative than in past decades. The exception was men's fashions, which became more subdued in the 1950s and included dark gray, blue, brown, and black suits. However, the Beatnik generation also contributed to fashion trends, and leather, denim blue jeans, and sneakers were also popular in the 1950s, especially among teenagers. Rock and roll also influenced the "greaser" look that developed around that time. The cult of the housewife similarly impacted new looks developing throughout the decade. A rise in consumerism encouraged many people to amass large, colorful wardrobes.

One of the most well-known fashion trends from the 1950s was the poodle skirt. Poodle skirts were round-cut, calf-length, full skirts, cinched at the waist. An applique of a poodle on the bottom left of the skirt was common, but other motifs were also used. Basic circle skirts, also calf-length or cut just below the knee, were common. Most were pleated, slightly puffy to maximize their "swing." Almost all 50s dresses and skirts accentuated the waist with a narrow, high waist band or a thin belt to cinch the waist of a full dress. The Christian Dior "New Look," a term first coined by Life magazine, fit into these skirt trends. The "New Look" entailed a full, calf-length skirt, nip waist, and a fitted complementary jacket. In order to maintain the puffy, flowing feel of skirts, most women wore petticoats. Petticoats were commonly made of nylon, stiffened through the use of starch or washing sugars. Some women wore Victorian-style crinoline petticoats that were made out of nylon, with an extra layer of fabric placed on top to soften the look of the boning (Thomas). In addition to the petticoat, an essential undergarment in the 1950s was the pointed bra. These formed bras gave a distinct shape to the female figure. The hourglass effect was further amplified by the cinched waist; circle or poodle skirts accentuated the hips, too.

Most women did not wear pants in social or office settings. However, skirt and dress suits did become highly popular casual wear. Coco Chanel designed her famous Chanel look during the 1950s. Unlike Christian Dior's New Look, Chanel's suits were more tailored, cut slimmer to fit the wearer's form. Chanel suits also used rich and distinct fabrics like highly textured, thick tweed. Trim and piping on Chanel jackets were often thick fabric braids. Linings were made from colorful, sensual silks. Sometimes clunky chains or other accessories were sewn onto the suits for adornment. Chanel jackets did not have collars, unlike the high collars that were generally popular during the 1950s. However, Chanel suits remained true to the cinched-waist look.

Except for the Chanel look, shirts and dress tops tended to be collared, some with bows at the top. Shirts and jackets were usually button-down. Sleeves were short or three-quartered. Even short sleeves were sometimes cuffed at the bottom. However, sleeveless tops, spaghetti straps or tank tops were unpopular except at…

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited

"Perfect Day for a Picnic." About.com. Online at .

Thomas, Pauline Weston. "1950s Glamour: Fashion History 1950s." Fashion Era.com. Online at <http://www.fashion-era.com/1950s_glamour.htm>.

Yeager, J. "History of Fashion: 1950-1960." History of Fashion. Online at <http://www.vintageblues.com/history5.htm>.

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