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1950s Fashion: A Collectif Primer

How much do you know about 1950s fashion?

Whether you’re a novice that loves vintage recreation clothing or you’re a clued up collector of 50s originals, there’s always time to go back to basics and learn about the history of 1950s fashion and the iconic 1950s looks that continue to inspire us today!

We’ll walk you through the fashion history basics of the 1950s and show you how to create the classic 1950s look with a few basic fashion items!

Fashion History of the 1950s

We can’t talk about 1950s fashion without acknowledging that some of the biggest style innovations were a product of the the end of World War II. Once the war ended, designers were free to turn their attention to reinventing manufacturing processes and setting their imaginations to work creating brand new silhouettes and shapes that would define their generation.

Dior led the way for early 1950s fashion, introducing the world to breakout trends that would inspire for decades to come. He debuted the vertical line dress known as the sheath dress in 1950, before creating an A Line silhouette with the small waistline in 1951, countering Balenciaga’s loose waistline with the high-waistline in 1952 and finally producing the relaxed H-line skirt in 1954.

The key trends of the early 50s were inspired most by American fashion, with what would become known as the ‘American Look’ being increasingly popular with teens of the 1950s. Until the 50s, teen fashion had been largely overlooked. In the 50s, clothes and shoes were designed specifically for teenagers and these designs went on to influence casual styles for both men and women.

By the mid 50s, Givenchy changed the direction of women’s fashion from the American dream with their designs that had a heightened sense of glamour. Long evening dresses in rich colour palettes of deep red, sapphire blue, emerald green and golden yellow were among the most popular styles of the mid 50s, made from luxurious materials such as mink, cashmere and angora.

This move towards a formal, glamorous style continued into the late 50s, with Chanel becoming a huge name in fashion by 1957. Her famous two-piece suit would become one of the most iconic styles of the 1950s, instantly recognisable even today! Chanel would remain one of the most popular designers in the world throughout the rest of the 50s, eventually adapting a more comfortable and casual look to suit the changing tastes of stylish 1950s women.

Key 1950s Looks

There are three distinct 1950s looks that represent the biggest style changes of the time. Each of the styles were designed to emphasise femininity, one of the most important aims of 1950s fashion.

Sweater Girl
The tight sweaters of the 1940s remained popular all throughout the 50s, and were designed to highlight the conical shape of the bullet bra. To get the sweater girl look, you simply had to wear either a turtleneck or twin-set style sweater with your bullet bra – simple!

Plain Vintage Jumper

The rockabilly look was one of the most famous looks to come from the American-inspired rock n roll era of the 1950s. The look was achieved by wearing mid-calf length swing dresses (wide, circular skirts) with a petticoat underneath to give the skirt even more volume. 

Rockabilly Dress



Another iconic shape of the 1950s was the pencil skirt. The long, close fitting shape of the skirt meant that women would tend to wiggle as they walked due to the restriction. The pencil skirt shape therefore began to be known as the wiggle dress and became popular with women of all ages for highlighting the iconic 1950s hourglass shape.

Our Top Tips for Getting the Iconic 1950s Look

  • Choose your favourite style of 1950s dress – Swing dresses or pencil dresses were the most popular styles you can choose from. If you really want your swing dress to turn heads, make sure you wear a petticoat underneath.
  • Add all the right accessoriesIn the 1950s your outfit simply wasn’t complete without the right accessories! You wouldn’t leave the house without the right shoes and handbag to match your outfit, and the more accessories such as gloves, scarves and hats, the merrier.
  • Apply your 1950s makeup – The most iconic piece of makeup from the 1950s is red lipstick.  If you want more advice on how to choose 1950s makeup, read our guide to the 1950s makeup colour palette!

So there’s our 1950s fashion basics! You’ll find all kinds of 50s influenced designs in our collections at Collectif – so whichever 1950s style captures your imagination you’ll be able to style yourself to your heart’s content!

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