The 50s (Part II)

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.

(Missed Part I? Read it here…)

The 50s (Part I)

After the war, women left their wartime factory jobs and returned to the role of homemaker. Families thrived in the suburbs with station wagons, picture windows, backyard, casseroles and Emily Post. Donna Reed was the perfect picture of the happy housewife dressed in the standard daytime shirtwaist with full circle skirt, and belted waist.

A fancy apron was added to wear at home in the kitchen. Of course, she never left the house without the short white gloves, flowered hat perched on the back of the head and suitable handbag.

Taffeta strapless ball gowns, many in black, with full skirts and wide-collared evening coats, extravagant cocktail dresses in lush colors, fabrics and accessories, were worn for evening wear, along with elbow length gloves and coordinating hats. Mink stoles, cashmere sweaters with fur collars, and jeweled embroidery were the coordinating features.

Chanel returned to designing with her signature cardigan suit and low sling-back shoes. Skirts were mid-calf and pleated at the waist to give fullness. Pucci designed silk scarves, dresses, blouses and stretch bathing suits in bold patterns of purple, pink and crimson.

Poodles were top dog, and appeared on skirts and jewelry. Costume pearls were worn as every day jewelry. Rhinestone-studded sun glasses were the crowning touch to any outfit.

Toreador or Capri pans worn with appliquéd sweaters and ballet slippers were the mainstay of the casual outfit. Circle skirts were made in felt with appliqués of everything from poodles to plants and lobsters.

(Read more in Part II)