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1953 Fashion


1953 FASH 01The Fifties
1950s Fashion

1953 Fashion

“What clothes did they wear in 1953?
The year 1953 ushered in a mood of sleek, slender elegance combined with a gamin quality, at once young and sophisticated. Hemlines, waistlines and hairlines all grew shorter and thus combined to make fashion news in 1953. It was also a year in which “shape” and “sheen” were style watchwords.

The waistline relaxed from the hipped “tiny” span that had accompanied the full silhouette of the two previous years. The semi-fitted suit with a narrow jacket very slightly indented at the waist and the form-fitting sheath dress were introduced. There was a revival of the French Directoire silhouette with its high, softly draped bosom—a long unbroken curve from diaphragm to hemline. Many dresses were beltless, although wide sashes and draped cummerbunds were popular.

Skirt lengths aroused world-wide controversy in the press. Beginning the year at an average height of 13 in. from the floor, they suddenly rose to 14 and 15 1/2 in. from the floor. This trend, though part of the normal modern fashion cycle which moves hemlines upward in gradual progression of about one inch each season for about five years, then down again at the same pace. was given impetus in 1953 by Christian Dior, who spiced his autumn 1953 Paris collection with noticeably shorter skirts (15 1/2 in. from the floor), combined with low hip draper, a silhouette which recalled the flapper days of the 1920s rather than the more willowy slenderness which most designers sponsored.

The “Italian” haircut, covering the head in short layered locks and with carefully “casual” tendrils brushed forward around the face, was the successor to the shorter, curlier “poodle” cut. While the daytime silhouette was predominately slender, the full skirt remained in fashion for festive clothes and for light summer dresses made of cotton or silk. Young women continued to affect crinoline petticoats under extra-full skirts and clasped their waists with wide leather belts or cummerbun

The form-fitting silhouette was softened by distinct bulk at the top, by a back-flaring profile line, and by necklines opened wide in a cuff or fold around the throat and bosom. These wide-open necklines were filled in with multiple strands of pearls or soft scarves or bibs.

The short evening dress remained an established fashion, although an equal number of long dresses were worn. Both were predominately full, although the sumptuously jeweled sheath gown was shown in most collections.

Hats, hugging the crown or back of the head, were draped or modeled like abstract sculptures and, except for jewels or embroidery, enjoyed a minimum of decoration.

The mood of elegance and ultra-femininity was reflected in sports clothes. Slacks and at-home pants were tapered to the ankle like Edwardian trousers and sometimes molded to the leg like a bullfighter’s trousers; long shorts (just above the knee) were precisely tailored of fine flannel, linen or raw silk and were accompanied by softly colorful shirts or blouses. Bathing suits were either seductively molded to the figure or made like little-girl rompers of pretty fabrics.

The vogue for separate skirts and sweaters or neat tailored blouses was establishing a major and thriving branch of fashion. Cotton, silk, satin and tweed skirts with simple or elaborately trimmed and jeweled sweaters (the latter of classic shape but loaded with decoration) were sold in de luxe boutiques (little ready-to-wear shops) and chain stores alike. Whether full or slim, the skirt of 1953 had a backswept effect and the hipline was smooth and slender. Petticoats were flounced to be wide at the hems but close-fitting at the hipline.

Cotton achieved top rank in fashion when the secretary of agriculture presented the first annual Cotton Fashion award in Washington, D.C., to Adele Simpson, well-known dress designer.

The return of brilliant color in the style pallette was traceable to the popular pageantry of the English Coronation. Colors were no longer muted, but glowed like jewels. The all-black costume in dramatic siren lines was a favorite for cocktail and theatre wear. Charcoal grey replaced beige as the popular daytime neutral.

Accessories were sumptuous, frivolous and alluring. Very bare shoes with jewelled heels, toes or instep bands were a colorful addition to evening clothes. Shallow cut pumps with low or high heels and bare Italian “mules” held on only by an instep band were worn for daytime. The most typical and universal accessory was the stole which was worn with suits, dresses and evening clothes. They were long and wide. in wool, silk, cotton or fur. Scarves and stoles of bulky furs, such as fox and lynx, began to reappear in balance with the slimmer silhouettes. Most popular of the jewelry trends was the large hoop earrings of gold or jewels.

The natural look of makeup had one important exception in the vogue for the doe-eye. A fine penciled line edging the entire eye and extending in a slant at the corner, the elongated eye enjoyed great popularity among sophisticated women in European and American cities.

Fashion experts noted the beginning of a strong trend toward a revival of “male plumage.” Prominent designers of women’s clothes, among them Adrian, Schiaparelli and Lilly Dache, entered the field of masculine design. Sports clothes of colorful silks and cottons with ease and individuality had tremendous popularity. Silk suits for men became a widespread summer fashion and masculine at-home clothes were widely shown and worn.”

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.

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