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The Softer Side - The 50s Part II

Nancy Willet [ May 2003 ]

Near the end of the decade there were two entirely different silhouettes. Dior designed the “Sack” dress, which later became the chemise, a no-waisted dress that was short and narrow at the hem. In 1958 Yves Saint Laurent produced the second, the trapeze dress, with narrow shoulders, no waist and a triangle shape.

In 1955 Roger Vivier, working with Dior, designed the stiletto heel, a much higher and slimmer look in high heels. The very slim high heel consisted of metal reinforcement and a very pointed toe. Fantastic designs appeared with embroidery, feathers, lace, beading, rhinestones, satin and even fur.

Marilyn Monroe and Jane Mansfield perpetuated this look, along the with eye shadow, penciled eyebrows and short haircuts. Many women wore half hats with their suits and cocktail outfits. Short veils on flowered hats and novelty beach hats were popular, as were turbans.

Handbags consisted of the Wilardy Lucite box, clutch bags were made of a variety of fabrics including alligator, lizard and snakeskin. Novelty designed included the three-dimensional straw animals and fish.

Menswear took on a conservative look. The “Mr. T” silhouette with narrow lapels and soft construction. Men chose gray or blue flannel suits worn with pinpoint collared shirts with narrow small-knotted stripe or solid ties. The all Dacron or rayon suit appeared and was worn year round. Hats had tapered crowns and narrow brims.

For the casual look, the fifties man had many choices. The Eisenhower jacket was a waist-length blouse styled jacket with slant pockets, zipper closure in many color variations. Madras sport jackets & polo shirts were popular as were Bermuda shorts in native prints. Colorful tapered resort slacks, Hawaiian shirts and the Ivy League look with button down collared shirts in a variety of fabrics and colors became very fashionable.

For the first time the style conscious American teenager had fashions designed especially for them. Rock N Roll star Elvis Presley and actor James Dean influenced teen fads from haircuts, to suede shoes and felt skirts.

Girls wore sweaters buttoned backwards and accented them with costume jewelry scatter pins. Cinch belts, bobbi socks, cuffed jeans and hair set in rollers. Boys wore pink shirts, khaki pants, leather jackets and greased hair. Beaches, drive-in movies and soda fountains were the new centers for teenage activity. The fifties led the way to the upcoming “youth explosion” of the sixties.

Are you ready? The Shelburne Fashion Show is just weeks away, and I am hoping to have an even bigger venue than last year. What a wonderful job you all did! Got a friend with an old car? Invite them to not only participate in the car show but also in the fashion show. We have a lot of fun and the best reward is seeing all the smiles.

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