“What clothes did they wear in 1950?
Women’s clothes were seldom prettier or more generally “wearable” than they were in 1950. The end of 1949 had found fashion apparently headed for a large-scale revival of the 1920s, but this rather extreme trend modified itself greatly. Some silhouettes of the flapper age remained, but they were so modernized as to be hardly detectable.
One of these was the chemise dress. In its 1950 form, this was a dress cut straight and fairly tight from the armhole to the flank, without a waist; the woman created her own waist, as high or low and as tight or loose as she wanted it, by means of a belt. This feature made the chemise a wearable dress, easy on difficult figures, and it was popular in the couture as well as in budget dress departments and in both day and evening versions. These latter dresses usually had stiff flares near the hem line, which were termed Spanish flounces or “trumpet” skirts.
Another feature of 1950 fashions that persisted from the 1920s revival was sleevelessness. Sleeveless dresses were worn for all four seasons of the year. Women liked them because of the easy fit they gave through the shoulders. Sleeveless blouses were also worn and, for evening, harness tops that were hardly more than yokes around the neck.
These harness tops were often in velvet. Velvet was one of the chief reasons why 1950 was such a pretty year in fashion. Always flattering to a woman’s complexion, it was lavishly used by designers, particularly cotton velvet (velveteen). There wen tailored velveteen suits and dresses for day, short dinner dresses in pretty colours of velveteen such as Parma violet, velvet ball gowns and dominoes, and evening separates that combined velvet with fabrics like tulle and stiff cotton lace. The short, swingy little odd jacket in black velveteen became a best seller, as did the velvet pump and the velvet belt.
An abundance of transparent fabrics also added to the atmosphere of prettiness in 1950; organdies and chiffons in white and pale colors and sweet sherbet tones were worn both day and evening. At night gray tulle was often seen, in every shade from mist to gunmetal.
Other fashions of 1950 included stoles; lengths of matching fabric which were used to wrap gracefully the shoulders of dresses, wool dresses as well as more formal dresses. There was also a trend toward longer hair; the short crop began to give way to more feminine coiffures, and a few chignons (knots of hair at the nape of the neck) were seen. Eyes were outlined with pencil and mascara to make them seem larger. This fashion, so quickly and completely adopted that it was featured even in the big news weeklies, took on rather amusing aspects, and women with the new made-up eyes were referred to as `”doe-eyed.”
In suits and coats 1950 was notable for tailoring. The suit of the year was the tailor’s suit, with a straight skirt and a jacket tailored as strictly as the jacket of an old-fashioned riding habit, with high, notched lapels, narrow sleeves, high armholes and vents at either side or in the back. More redingotes were seen—sharply fitted single-breasted coats with notched lapels and vented skirts.
In Paris there was a definite trend toward tunic coats and flared three-quarter coats. However, the loose, fleecy topcoat continued as popular as ever, in bright colors as well as a very dark banker’s gray.
The most fashionable color scheme of the year was black and white, used day and night, winter and summer, and in either proportion—black with white accessories, or white with black accessories. There was a big wave of Spanish colours, like a rich yellow or ruby red worn with accents of black. This Spanish influence was also felt in the widespread use of ball fringe, jet and passementerie, and many hats were of Spanish inspiration, resembling those worn by matadors.
Hats continued quite small in 1950—pillboxes, toques and tiny berets—although there was a noticeable forward movement in the way they were worn.
Little fashions that “caught on” during 1950 included: patent leather, which was used all year round for shoes, bags and belts; accessories in two textures of leather or fabric, and two colors (even satin spectator pumps for the evening) ; fox furs, which had a big revival; and rhinestone jewelry, big, glittery and frankly fake, which was worn from the morning on, on tweed
suits as well as on lace evening dresses.”
Compiled from period encyclopedias, yearbooks and catalogs subject to fair use or public domain. My own edited versions of public domain material including edited images are protected by copyright.