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The end of WWII marked a turning point for women’s fashion. One could even say that there was a parallel with Europe’s liberation and that of the fashion of the day. Even today 50s fashion represents independence and boldness and as such hasn’t lost any of its appeal.
During the war women were given the right to work for the first time. They were employed in factories, taking the place of the men who were fighting. As clothing was hugely regulated at this time (everything from collar size to skirt length) and as practical clothes were required for factory work, straight silhouettes were favored. Easy-to-wear comfort-first clothing was worn by women such as shirt dresses and suits—pants were even worn regularly due to their practicality!
After the war the restrictions of the use of various materials required for the war effort were dropped, such as rubber and nylon. These materials were now available for use in fashion and the designers of the day put them to good use.
The fabric in fashion was billowy and luxe. Tulle, velvet, satin and silk were widely used for evening wear. Rayon and polyester were used to produce all manner of clothes while nylon and elastic were used to make delicate undergarments. Squared shoulders softened, the figure moved from boxy to hourglass, and short skirts made way for mid-calf ones, sometimes so tight that women struggled to walk! It was all about accentuating the figure.
Around this time extreme diets became popular as a way to achieve “the shape of the new fashion.” Vogue even wrote about some of these, including ‘the grape’, ‘psychological’, ‘new cottage cheese’ and the foodie-friendly ‘deuces wild.’
The fashion turning point was in 1947, when Christian Dior created the ‘New Look,’ marking Dior’s first collection and a look that would rule supreme for the next decade. It couldn't have been more different to the look of the 40s.
The 50s were the Golden Age of Couture and as such the look was glamorous, grown-up and groomed. Although the skirts, dresses and undergarments of the day were restricting, the huge range of casual clothes or ‘leisure clothes’ gave women some respite from the high standards expected of them. Accessories first became popular at this time as well, with women co-ordinating their jewelry with their shoes, belts, bags and gloves.
Although we love all retro fashion a few items truly stand out.
Nautical but Nice
French women have long lauded the timeless je ne sais quoi ["a quality that cannot be named" in French] of the Breton top. Available in long sleeve, short sleeve and mid-sleeve lengths, it's always chic. Even Audrey Hepburn counted it among her favorite fashion items. Later in the 2000s Designer Jean Paul Gaultier put and evening wear spin on this fashion favorite proving its stylish versatility.
Stripes You'll Like
Oh vertical stripes how we love thee! Fashion's most flattering pattern is always in style. Thanks to the optical illusion caused by one’s eye following the line of the stripe, one appears taller and thinner than one is in reality. Have fun playing around with color and stripe thickness.
Vintage, Vintage, Vintage
Vintage tops add effortless chic to any ensemble. With myriad styles of this retro item to choose from there is no reason why you can’t rock this look. Have fun mixing and matching different styles of tops with 50s-inspired bottoms.The t-shirts work well with shorts and skirts in the warmer months. When it’s cool out the tops are perfectly matched with high-waisted pants. The colors of the moment are black, red, teal, pink and white. Add some heels for a full on 50s look!