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1950s Fashion History: Womenswear

When it comes to the timeless classic of womenswear, 1950s fashion is definitely on the list. Not only has it been included in the annals of fashion, but also it is still popular now. Why was 1950s fashion so successful? First, let us begin with an overview of the world history of that period.

During World War II, when the men were away, women began to gain an independence and they left homes to work in offices and factories. In that case, most women wore comfortable clothing which suitable for work, and even began to regularly wear pants. After the end of War, as men returned home, women also returned to the home as wives, mothers and homemakers. Therfore, the western women’s clothing was no longer just a single style of working look.

Under the change of the social environment, Paris once again became the center of fashion, a large number of designers worked hard to create the 1950s fashion and held fashion shows twice a year. It made a hit, bringing the development of the fashion industry to an epoch-making peak. Then, let us take a look at some typical changes.

The basin collar and large lapels soften the lines on the neck and shoulders. Instead of the traditional ruffle trim, the new "Peter Pan" neckline is layered with knit and fur. The old pleated skirt and the large skirt are modified into an A-line skirt, and the length is also shortened, making the wearer more free. The thin waist band is a good match, which shows the waist line very well. What was the chance of these changes?



On February 17, 1947, Christian Dior launched a series of fashions named after the "Corolla" in Paris, which was dubbed the "New Look" by Harper’s Bazaar editor Carmel Snow. This design became an instant success and shocked the whole world, almost all the media use it as the headline. Some people even exclaimed: It is Dior’s new fashions that truly ended the World War II and brought people’s broken hearts back to beauty and tranquility. It can be said that this "New Look" permanently changed the fashion industry, as well as created the trend that would dominate the next decade. As a result, the nipped-in waist and full-skirted silhouette remained the leading style until the mid-1950s.

The whole look of the 1950s was mature and syncretic. Fashion curator Daniel Milford-Cottam described it in Fashion in the 1950s: “One particularly striking aspect of the decade was the emergence of stylish options. Two ladies could walk down the street in different outfits, yet appear equally modish, be their skirts full and narrow, or one in a form-fitting sheath and the other in a loose sack dress.” He also explained that the idea of choice rather than following one specific style was relatively new in the 1950s.

Early, 1950s fashion had the noble and elegant clothing style of the upper-class women of the 19th century. In addition, it used new techniques and design methods to reinterpret women fashion, showing a unique feminine charm. Dior presented high-waisted garments with swimsuit-inspired tight shapes from neck to hips, which flared smoothly over the knees. Balenciaga went another direction, with slack-waist dresses and middle length skirts. The choices of personal fashion styles represented the freedom of women’s lives after World War II ended.

From 1954, the womenswear became simple but had sex appeal, and the flavor was from the 1920s. It was strongly affected by Asian designers, especially from Japan and India. Human’s dressing up desire was at its peak in 1955. Women were expected to be impeccably dressed and groomed in public or when their spouse was home, this meant perfectly groomed hair, spotless makeup, and sets of matching accessories, such as, hats, gloves, bags, belts, and jewelry.


In 1957, "Coco" Chanel introduced the legendary two-piece suit and became famous. Not only did the suit become the iconic style, but also pullovers fabricated with jerseys and tweeds and lace evening dresses became the most elegant look of women in that time. But in personal occasion, women dressed much simpler, more comfortable. Eventually, these casual fashions became public clothing as well.

The “Swing Dress” was the most representative women’s clothing in the 1950s. It was mainly composed of fabrics such as satin to reflect the image of a beautiful and graceful woman. Due to it needed more fabric than the average dress, it was difficult to promote it in Europe at first, but it was first popular in the wealthy America. When "New Look" swept the whole country, influenced by this trend, fashion magazines like Vogue and Women’s Wear Daily, mail order catalogs had a sharp increase in product advertising that brought designer fashions into every home.

Besides, led by Dior, designers started contracting out the manufacture of some clothing, and a wide range of accessories that were stamped with their labels. This practice is very common today, as you can see by visiting any department store, but was a new idea in that period.

For women, the 1950s was undoubtedly the age of material. With the development of new technology, a variety of music, entertainment, Hollywood culture went into the public life; Washing machines, television, cars, holidays, parties, also made it possible to wear elegant luxury fashion (or emulate high fashion) . Therefore,  the fabrics were often luxurious, especially for evening wear. Velvet, tulle and satin were popular. Cotton and wool were often used for daywear, along with new synthetic fabrics.

Middle-class women who had undergone a brutal war and suppressed in clothing for a long time were eager for the transformation. The emergence of "New Look" brought happiness back and lasted throughout the 1950s. It was not only a clothing style, but also a life attitude.

1950s fashion can be regarded as the most elegant era in the history of Western clothing. Even to this day, it also plays an important role in the fashion field. Do you like 1950s fashion? If so, you can come to ZAPAKA to choose those you like!

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