1950s Glamour with Fifties Accessories - Fashion History
The pointed pre-formed conically stitched bra was actually a fashion
accessory, as without one the sweater girl look was certainly not right. Fashionable accessories included popper beads and spectacles with enormous wings that arched upward in twirls that could be studded with rhinestones.
One unexpected facial accessory of 50s was spectacles. Frequently these were inlaid with diamante or scattered glitter dust. The
exaggerated wings at the outer corners flared in the style of butterfly wings.
Think of the Australian entertainer Dame Edna Everage and you have
the essence of the spectacles, although somewhat exaggerated. Here is a
realistic example of 1950s spectacles and shown right. The pointy wings
would be considered a health hazard.
Hats added the final touch of 1950s glamour to a woman or girl's outfit,
particularly in the early fifties. Last year's dress or suit could be updated
easily with a new hat or a fresh ornament such as flowers, an autumnal bunch of
acorns and leaves, or a bunch of cherries.
made of fruits. Similar items were used to trim hats
Balenciaga had first shown the
pillbox and it became the hat of the fifties and later the hat of the sixties
when it was greatly favoured by Jackie Kennedy. The pillbox often had veiling
attached as shown in the header.
Neat pillbox style hat image left is
In the mid fifties glorious hat styles covered less in plumage
and more in floral blooms appeared. Some designs consisted solely of bomb
like shapes covered with flower
petals, almost like a more full blown version of the swimming cap above. Later hats consisted of folds of tulle, organza, nets or swirls of
Other simple hats included neat beret varieties and also knitted
beret hats with tassels or pom-pom.
The jester 4 cornered beret hat was made of felt
and velvet and available in a riot of glorious colours and was
priced at one guinea or 21 shillings.
The head hugging Baker Boy
beret was in a fabric called suedeen and jersey for 22/-.
Generally hats began to lose favour in the fifties as they
were unsuitable for the new hairstyles. Women spent more time at the hair
salon and the last thing they wanted to do was spoil their latest hairdo with a
hairstyles began with simple ponytails and ended the decade with complex beehive
Milliners could have designed hats more suitable for the new fuller
bouffant hairstyles, but they failed to see the possibilities and designs continued as
before and they lost the market for hats eventually.
In the 1950s, colour films made an enormous impact on
cosmetics. The huge cinema screens illuminated the unblemished
appearance of stars and caused the make up artist Max Factor to invent an
everyday version of the foundation he used called "Pan Cake". This was a makeup to gloss over skin imperfections. He also brought out a range of eye shadows and lipsticks which
helped create the 1950s glamour.
Later in the 50s titanium was added to tone down the
brightness of products and this resulted in lips with a pale shimmering gleam.
Magazines taught step by step how to use recently introduced
lip brushes and young girls began to blend and mix their own lip colours often
having first blotted the lips out with Max Factor Pancake make up.
idea was extended to create frosted nail varnishes of pink, peach, silver and a
host of other colours but in this 1955 image below you can see the colour to
wear was red. The model below shows scarlet fingernails and lips and finishes
off her outfit with a smart beret.
Left 1955 Makeup & Manicure
In the late 50s the make up company Gala had introduced pale
shimmering lipsticks with added titanium. Later Max Factor brought out a
colour called Strawberry Meringue which was a pastel pearly pink. They
really caught on in the late fifties and early sixties as young girls were
frowned upon if they wore brazen red lips, so the softened pink and peach
colours were acceptable initially to parents and then became a trend.
As the fifties ended, Vogue magazine had started to coordinate
the colour's of the season's latest clothes with those of the cosmetics on
offer. Eventually all the make up houses followed, producing ranges
that picked up colour changes.
Gloves were worn everywhere in the 1950s and completed a
woman's grooming. Without gloves she was not properly accessorised.
Clean gloves were also the hallmark of a lady and white or cream were the most
Gloves worn in so many colours were usually made
of cotton as this was more affordable than leather gloves or the newer nylon and
they could be washed very easily. Even so many women owned a special
pair of leather gloves. You can see from the picture right, why they were sometimes referred to as 1950s Gauntlet Gloves.
Dents and Pittards were popular glove names,
but women could also make their own gloves using a McCall's pattern such as this
vintage pattern above from
The formality of wearing gloves even continued into the
sixties with interesting cut out peephole variations in the popular stretch
nylon and designed almost like a golfing glove. By the 1970s gloves were
more used functionally for keeping the hands warm than for any other reason.
Fur trimmings abounded and adorned collars and cuffs
as well as being made into brooches. Stoles were worn on every
occasion; they too could be of fur, but were just as likely to be of
lace or a silky fabric. Classic fifties glamour.
Bags in the 1950s were literally handbags and usually held by the
hand or over the arm in the fashion followed by Grace Kelly who used her
Hermes bag to hide her pregnancy. Many handbags had side pockets,
or even grip clasps or rings for a woman to keep track of her gloves.
Right - 1955 Handbag and Flat shoes.
Larger bags to hold possessions were also popular when women
travelled using public transport some distance into towns. They could keep
all their essentials with them as very few women realistically had regular car
access in those days in UK.
Bucket bags and raffia
bags were also useful accessories as winkle picker stiletto shoes were not so
comfortable. Often a pair of flat shoes lurked in the bags out of necessity just
in case entrance was forbidden. Carpet was not universally used then in
buildings and many floors of the period were linoleum or wood tiled and the
stilettos indented the tiles easily.
Early 1950's shoes were often very high, but with rounded or peep toes and
low cut front uppers and sometimes had sturdy Cuban heels. Strapped sandals with finer heels were popular as were
heavier thicker heels for lower shoes, but by the mid fifties kitten heels and
metal tipped steel stiletto heels replaced styles that owed more to designs that
had been brought out to compliment the New look of 1947.
By the mid 1950s
pointed toe shoes called winkle pickers with stiletto heels up to 5 inches were a common sight.
There is no doubt that the trademark of the fifties was the stiletto heeled
shoe, first seen in 1952 at a Dior fashion show.
Left - 1955 Old Dolcis Advert for stiletto heeled
shoes at 69/11d.
Below is a picture of the spiked umbrella so popular in the
50s and 60s.
The long slim umbrella was available in many
bright colours and price 28 shillings and sixpence.
Almost as if to match the spindly heel, umbrellas were elongated with 6 inch steel
spikes and many a woman considered a furled umbrella as protection from attack
when walking home late at night. Taxis were not only a rarity, but also a
luxury in the fifties.
Many a floor was ruined by stilettos from shoes
and umbrellas. The main problem was caused by the stilettos being metal tipped
as still somewhat economy conscious after the war British wearers
preferred the longer life of steel than rubber tips, despite the click clacking irritating noise they
So stilettos became banned in many buildings and remain
banned in National Trust properties and stately homes. So take your spare flat shoes
if visiting such places, as the stiletto sandals and shoes of 2005
often bear a very similar look to 50's footwear.
Teenagers and Teddy Boys
Page Added 10 June 2005
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