Fashion in the Fabulous Fifties: Ladies Wear!

Hi everyone I’m Dee and Bob has invited me to be a guest author on his Fabulous site! As a retro-gal I love mid-century fashion, particularly from the 50’s decade. I guess you could say I’m obsessed with 50’s clothes.

The 1950’s were a time when both women and men took great pride in how they looked. The war was over and it was time for women to be feminine again and to pull out all the stops in their clothing choices.

The most prominent look for women in the 1950’s was the ultra-feminine “fit and flair” silhouette. This was introduced by designer Christian Dior. French Romanticism was a big influence on women’s fashions in the 50’s. The tiny nipped in waist and the elegant flared skirt was a look not only for the most fashionable ladies, but for everyday ladies as well.

Now, when most people think about what ladies wore in the 1950’s, they think of poodle skirts, soft cardigan sweaters and saddle shoes, finished off with a scarf. Although that look is probably to this day the most iconic, it is only one of the styles from that era. The poodle skirt look was strictly for young women (teen-agers) in high school. And not even they wore poodle skirts all the time! Before I knew any better, I used to think that young women in the 50’s wore nothing but poodle skirts. I used to picture them sitting in class, their hair in ponytails, dressed in poodle skirts complete with petticoats as if they were going to jump up any minute and perform a number from Grease. But in reality, the poodle skirt ensemble was only worn to the Sock-Hop on a Saturday night.  In school, young ladies wore simple, wool skirts, with a modest sweater or blouse or sometimes a long “shirt” dress that buttoned up to the very top of the collar. In warmer weather, they wore cotton dresses that hit way past the knee, but above the ankle. The necklines were relatively high, compared to the dresses that came later in history.

Both blouses and dresses alike had Peter Pan collars, and many blouses included built in ties that were neatly made into a bow. Everything was neat and tidy and extremely conservative. Gals did not ever wear pants to school (that was against the dress code for all schools, both public and private.) School was a serious business and dressing appropriately was not an option. That said, the saddle back shoes were indeed appropriate for daily wear and worn in school, as they were both neat-looking and practical.

On weekends, some girls would trade their skirts in for jeans. In those days jeans (or “dungarees” as they called them) were somewhat loose, with a high rise and ALWAYS rolled up at the cuffs. Sporty gals would wear jeans with a cotton button-up shirt, perhaps with a gingham plaid pattern, or stripes. Gals didn’t have many opportunities to wear dungarees in public, but if you were just spending a casual day around the house or playing softball, they were acceptable.

Young women, particularly the teen set, also wore cropped pants called “pedal pushers”. These were high waisted and usually black or sometimes other solid colors. They could also be in the popular black and white gingham print. To this day, these kinds of pants are a classic style.

The next most common look of the 50’s for women was the “Housewife” look. This was basically a house or “day dress” that was comfortable enough to wear all day doing house work. The dresses ranged from cute to dowdy-looking depending on the patterns. They usually had a belt to nip in the waist, a full skirt and were made of cotton. They were “tea length” falling past the knee, but above the ankle. Patterns could be floral, striped, polka-dot, plaid or gingham. Colors were not generally too bright (that came later).

My favorite look of this era is the Formal Wear, or what women wore for special occasions. This could also be considered the “Golden Age of Hollywood” look, which would include the the fabulous, iconic dresses of stars such as Elizabeth Taylor. Special Occasion dresses of that day also included the classic 1950’s Prom Dress, with its sweeping skirt, sweetheart neckline and multiple layers of tulle. Older ladies also wore dramatic dresses with full skirts, although their’s were a bit more sophisticated. For example, Prom dresses were often a girlish pink, while adult women might wear dresses that were black with chic-looking gold accents. The look was opulent and glamorous, and often included an accessory shrug or fur wrap around the shoulders. Formal wear dresses could be strapless or not, some with only one shoulder.

Overall, the common elements of dresses from that era consisted of one or more of the following: a bateau neckline, a sweetheart neckline, taffeta, chiffon, Chantilly lace (yes, like the song!), tulle, and velvet.

Not all dresses were fit and flare, although those are the most remembered from that era. Some were straight and often included a matching jacket could be removed. The one thing all dresses had in common from that time is the length: nothing was above the knee. Like I tell my readers, if it goes above the knee, it’s not authentic 50’s!

Pencil skirts paired with a boat-neck top is another famous look from the 50’s. However, the skirts were not completely form-fitting. Just like with the straight dresses, there was some room between the person and the garment. Modern day adaptations tend to make “wiggle” dresses and skirts too tight and clingy. Nothing was skin-tight in the 50’s.

Finally, I’d like to add that women of the 1950’s always erred on the side of “over dressing” as opposed to under dressing. They wore tailored skirts with matching jackets just to run everyday errands, and no lady ever went ANYWHERE in the 50’s without her hat and gloves!


Fashion Examples from the 50’s including the famous Fit and Flair and straight dresses. Note the calf length of both styles.

So I hope you enjoyed my run-down on 1950’s women’s fashion. For more fashion segments featuring the Fabulous Fifties, please visit my blog Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever

I’d also like to thank Bob for having me as a guest author, it’s been a pleasure.


What’ll they think of next!

 Transistor Radio

Transistor Radio

What a great surprise I got for my 10th Birthday! My mother brought me to the toy store David’s on the avenue where I lived and got me a new Transistor radio…

that was the new thing at the time it had AM radio on it that you could pick up by clipping the wire that came with it to anything metal like the parking meter I used outside the store. It was fun to listen to it. A memory I’ll always remember!

Crew cut at Louie’s!

pitr-scissors-half-open-iconWhen I was about 9 or 10 years old my father would give me 50 cents and say, go down to 1 2 3 Louie’s barber shop and get a crew cut! It was about 16 blocks away.

But that’s the way it was in the 50’s we never worried about going places then it was a walk but we didn’t complain a bit most of the time I would go with a friend or two and sometimes they got a crew cut also.

Here’s your paper ~ I think!

RetroBoyBack in 1957 I had a Cousin who delivered newspapers and one day he said to me, I’m quitting my job do you want to do it? I said ok so he walks me around the block to where the office was and tells the man in charge I’ll be taking over his route. So He trains me for one day and then I’m on my own and I get this book with all the people who get a paper delivered.

So at first I did all right but then one day I forgot to bring the address book and could only remember a few of the address’s so I came back at the end of the day with a lot of papers that I threw away! So people called and said they didn’t get their paper.

So I had to re-deliver them and it came out of my tips! I didn’t last long at the job because I spent more money from the collection money for candy along the way that on Saturdays when I had to hand the money in I was short and had to make it up..

At The Dairy Queen!

clip_dairyqueen_adsThere was a Dairy Queen two blocks away from my Grandmother’s home back in the 50’s and you could get a regular cone for 5 cents! and other great items like: Ice cream sodas, and a great Banana Spilt!

Today a cone is like close to $3.00 A great treat on a summer’s day..

Department Stores of my 50’s


1950’s Department stores

How I remember the great Department stores in the 50’s in the city I grew up in! On the avenue there was many but the ones I remember most was: Woolworth’s there was three of them.

A Kress Department store was  there as was a Sears Department store built-in the 1930’s, a few blocks from the avenue that had three floors and great products for the home and there was Holthausens Department store on the avenue a few blocks from one of the Woolworth’s stores..

There was the Mickey Finns Department store downtown that sold all kinds of housewares and clothing at good prices.

And in the late 50’s They build a new 2 guys from Harrison Department store that sold everything. All these great stores from my 50’s are gone now. Sears is at the mall. Wish it was the 50’s again!

You Don’t Say!


Check out these facts about the 1950’s
•All of the holidays Were celebrated in school
•Most people had record player and records
•Almost all mothers stayed at home as homemakers and took care of the house and kids
•There wasn’t much crime
•No riots and people trampling over each other at stores and concerts
•ATM’s did not exist
•No automatic washing machines or dryers
•No smog
•You would see two movies at the theater with a cartoon in between for 25 cents
•No DVR’s
•All the children played on the street until dark and we all felt safe
•No one locked there front door at night or when you went away
•Most people had one TV and it was black and white. There were only three channels, ABC, NBC and CBS.
•1950s fashion was hot.

Cooling off on a summer day!

RetroBoyI remember those hot summer days the city would have certain streets they would block off and set up a large sprinkler and the kids would come and we would sit under it till they turned it off about 5 or 6:pm it was set up in the middle of the street.

We brought a little something to snack on and some kool aid It was a way to cool off on a hot summers day in the 1950’s

It’s Howdy Doody Time!

“It’s Howdy Doody Time” by Edward Kean
It’s Howdy Doody time,
It’s Howdy Doody time,
Bob Smith and Howdy Doo
Say Howdy Doo to you.

Lets give a rousing cheer,
‘Cause Howdy Doody’s here.
It’s time to start the show,
So kids, let’s go!

howdy-doody-show-1The character first came to life from the creative mind of Bob Smith who created Howdy Doody during his days as a radio announcer on WNBC (AM). At that time, Howdy Doody was only a voice Smith performed on the radio.

When Smith made an appearance on NBC’s television program Puppet Playhouse on December 27, 1947, the reception for the character was great enough to begin a demand for a visual character for television. Frank Paris, a puppeteer whose puppets appeared on the program, was asked to create a Howdy Doody puppet.