Fashion: We Owe It to the 1950s

Walter Raymond

70 years ago, a great revolution occurred in the world of fashion, forever changing the way we dress.

Somehow, the fashion world went through a fundamental shift in the mid-20th century with the arrival of Christian Dior’s models, wearing garments with enhanced busts, open shoulders, and fitted waists culminating in long flared skirts. The Dior woman was always complemented with wide hats, gloves, and high-heel shoes.

Fashion in the 1950s
James Dean.

Thus, the new and elegant female figure departed, once and forever, from the sobriety and restraint they had endured for centuries. The milestone of this momentous change was the presentation in Paris of the Corolle Dior collection on February 12, 1947, ushering in the “Golden Age” of fashion and haute couture.

The New Look

The birth of the “New Look,” an apt name attributed to Claire Snow, editor of Harper’s Bazaar, marked a turning point in the aesthetics of fashion. Dior, Balenciaga, Givenchy, Chanel, and Balmain were perhaps the most prominent examples of the new image. The 1950s shaped the decade that saw the division between adult and youth fashion.

The adult fashion, finely represented by the “Dior style,” was elegant, worldly and sophisticated. Meanwhile, young women dared to wear loose and informal clothes like jeans, baggy sweaters, and skirts with flat shoes. The need for renewal and differentiation drove the rise of couturiers and the “do it yourself”.

Fashion in the 1950s
Marilyn Monroe.

The movies were a critical factor in the creation of fashion trends. Famous stars like Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot adopted—for them and women in general— the fusion of these two feminine styles so different from each other.

We owe them the popularity of loose shirts with skirts or pants and flat shoes for everyday life, and on the other hand, elegant gowns for parties, formal events or nights out.

Men also followed the fashion trends: the white cotton shirt with short sleeves, a black leather jacket, and jeans was actively promoted by the “look” of the teen idols of the time; Elvis Presley and James Dean.

Immoral garments and pearl necklaces

In 1946, the French designer Louis Réard created the bikini, which immediately was labeled “a sinful garment”, to the point, that Réard’s models refused to wear it in public. However, and thanks again to the movies, actresses like Brigitte Bardot and Ursula Andress dared to wear it on the screen, definitely affirming the two-piece bathing suit.

Fashion in the 1950s
Brigitte Bardot.

Hair could be straight, curly, long or short; the important thing was the frequent color change and blond was the most demanded hue. Accessories started to be indispensable. Large glittery earrings, pearl necklaces, scarves and wide belts became key pieces in feminine attire.

To enhance their face women used eyeliner on the upper eyelid, thick eyebrows shaped like “dove’s wings” and the lips were highlighted in red, fleshy, very “Marilyn” tones.

The 1950s marked, no doubt, a definite shift towards a new appearance.  ■

© | 2016