What Did Women Wear in the 1950s?

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The fashion of the 1950s was largely influenced by the Dior New Look, epitomized by small waist lines, calf-length skirts with pronounced hips and fitted jackets. This look represented a return to glamour after the utilitarian fashions of the 1940s.

The fashions of the 1950s were feminine and were a reaction to the military styles of the 1940s. After World War II, women desired clothing that did not resemble civilian army uniforms. Dior's New Look debuted in 1947, and it became the dominant silhouette of the following decade.

Full-skirted dresses with form-fitting bodices were very popular. Women emphasized the fullness of the skirts by wearing crinolines under them. Form-fitting pencil skirts were also commonly worn. The zeal for clothing that highlighted the female figure also redefined the undergarment business. Since form-fitting clothes are often unforgiving when it comes to imperfections, women utilized shapely bras and girdles to ensure they looked their best. Stiletto heels also became all the rage in the late 1950s.

While this elegant style was the most popular during the era, it was by no means the only design. Actresses like Audrey Hepburn and Leslie Caron preferred a boyish look to the perfect elegance of the Dior look. They wore flat shoes, simple sweaters and cropped their hair short.

In the later part of the decade, the trends that would flourish in the 1960s began to crop up in fashion. Hubert Givenchy, for example, debuted his "sack" dress in 1957. This dress had a straight waist instead of the cinched design of the Dior New Look. It eventually transformed into the fitted, darted sheath dress. The sheath-dress style was picked up by Mary Quant, who used it as inspiration for her mini shift dresses. These became all the rage in the 1960s.