How to Wear Vintage 1950s Clothing
By Nan Werther
, last updated August 18, 2011
Wearing vintage clothing from the 1950s is a trend that's gained a lot of popularity in recent years. Fashion is always a reflection of larger happenings in the world, and usually a collective response on the part of the people towards events taking place. Previously much of America had recently experienced wartime deprivation and strife, and emerging from this time of national despair there was resurgence in fashion and material goods. With the economy blossoming again more people could afford to invest in fancy clothing and hairdos. Much of women's fashion at the time was concerned with femininity and the styles reflected this obsession. Red lipstick became part of every woman's make up regime as a way to enhance their "natural wiles" and facial characteristics. Wasp waists came into style too, accentuated by big skirts, padded shoulders, and tiny heels that all declared a woman's absolute femininity. An hourglass figure, whether natural or achieved through corseting, was a must.
Some fashion trends commonly seen in the 1950s were tiny hats, known as pillbox hats, and the prevalence of leopard spotted coats, which replaced shawls as the outdoor wrap of the era. Starched petticoats were used to give fullness to skirts, which further illuminated the cinched or belted waist of the female. Furs were all the rage at the time and they, along with expensive fabrics such as silk, were often seen as status symbols. Elegance was a theme of the era, with women rarely being seen, even in the home, without being "done". Even in the heat of summer their bloomers were starched, their dress pressed, hair curled and styled, lipstick perfectly applied, and gloves on. All in all, the emphasis was on being the most ladylike you could be even when keeping a home and children.
That said the best way to wear vintage clothing from the 1950s is to fully embody the femininity of the era to be truly authentic. With our current fashions being more forgiving of many body shapes it is easy to adapt the styles to a more modernized wardrobe and figure. Housedresses are easy to wear and don't require petticoats and come in many cute patterns. Good for any figure, they bring back to the era when a woman's domain was the home, and are easily accessorized. Try a lovely fuller skirt with a length that falls below the knee and make sure to belt it to draw attention to your waist. Tuck in a short-sleeved button down or polo for an authentic outfit that's perfect for a picnic or day at the lake. Tie up wayward hairs with a cute kerchief and knot it on the top for a Rosie the Riveter look. Scour your local thrift stores for full length dusters or pea coats to wear in the winter, or go more avant garde and wear a cape. Top it off with a pillbox hat and a fake stole and you've got a look straight from Mad Men.
The best way to find vintage clothes, good ones, is being patient and going to vintage stores until you drop or find something you like. Happy searching!