Vintage Clothes 10 Collecting Fifties Vintage The Look - Part 1
By Pauline Weston Thomas for Fashion-Era.com
1950s Vintage Clothes - The Look
1950s fashion is very popular with vintage
collectors and so I discuss aspects of it here. The list of course is not exhaustive, but should
help you steer a course to make a choice amid all the fifties items there
are to choose from. On the
next page I look at 50's Knitwear, Leather Jackets, 50's Vintage Denims
- The Big E, Accessories, Scarves, Bags, Bakelite and Lucite Bags, Bags by
Enid Collins, Chanel and Kelly Bags, Nylons or Stockings and Costume
fashion of the 1950s is based primarily on the New Look style set in the late 1940s by
Dior. Many vintage styles of the 50's are full skirted, but some are the
slim sheath dresses favoured by other designers such as Jacques Fath, the
sack dress of the late fifties designed by Hubert de Givenchy and the
encrusted embroidered striking jewelled evening designs of Pierre Balmain.
Other famous European designer names of the 50's era include
Christobal Balenciaga, Coco Chanel, Jacques Heim, Molyneux, Paquin, Robert
Piguet, Jean Patou, Jean Desses, Jacques Griffe, Nina Ricci, Fabiani, Madame
Gres (earlier models called Alix) and the House of Lanvin. They are
the most sought after vintage European design names to seek from 50's
Prized 50's American designer names include
Claire McCardell, Mainbocher (Main Rousseau Bocher), Galanos, Pauline
Trigère and the Anglo-American Charles James.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Mainbocher was the most expensive custom
dress designer in New York. His couture house was the only design
establishment in New York that never produced ready-to-wear clothing.
This luxurious silk satin gown is divided into four
sections of colour. The front bodice and skirt are alternating ivory and
pastel peach; the back bodice and skirt are alternating pale dusty rose
This c.1950 red carpet dress
shown right is from
kindly provided the image. Read more about this high end seller on
this website here.
Only a minority of women could afford to wear couture designer clothes in
the fifties and the majority of women wore mass produced goods. Yet fresh
ideas and fashion concepts trickled down from the French salons to Madame
dress shops and department stores throughout the world.
Miss and Mrs. Average were soon seen in looks that captured the essential
style set by Paris. These are the clothes most vintage pickers find today. They were produced fairly rapidly by improved production methods in a post
war economy boom for a society desperate for "new" goods of every
Clothes worn in the day were very feminine and designed to remind women they
were women. Women also still craved luxury in dress after years of
deprivation during the Utility period. Evening wear produced in the 50s even
for the masses was often ultra glamorous. Aspects of 50's vintage clothing to
collect are clothes with tiny waists, shown often as glamorous, luxurious,
feminine, low necked evening dresses or boned strapless dresses in taffetas,
lace, nets, tulle, chiffon and satin or even nylon.
A wide range of net and nylon hoop crinoline style petticoats were produced
to support the full bouffant skirts. Vintage under slips of the era are very
collectable. You may even find a well designed vintage strapless bra of the era or
wasp waist corset, but stiffened boned areas were often built into bodices
and that forced a specific shape when on the wearer. Net and lace were
both used extensively to make many mid priced dresses. The strapless
example below from anothertimevintageapparel.com is typical of a ballerina
length early fifties evening dress very suitable for the local dance.
sells a wide range of mixed vintage items including rockabilly (RAB)
true 1950s ballerina length vintage bouffant style party formal with
extra details. This 1958 pink net tulle and lace dress was
probably a prom dress and it is perfect for dancing. The skirt is frothy
layers of stiffened net and lace and is extremely full. Sweet pink paper
flowers accent the bust. This item also includes a matching net stole
Shorter cocktail dresses with higher necklines were never worn before 6pm
and they were often of shot silk, brocade, lace net, grosgrain, tulle,
chiffon, lustrous satin and even floral or abstract prints. The LBD or
little black dress as we know it today evolved from this period.
trapeze dress was a high busted swinging dress, whilst the waistless chemise
look of 1958 was a forerunner of sixties styles and really began to catch on
with a simplicity of shape welcome after the rigor of belts.
A killer little red cocktail dress
far right, a Lanvin jacket with
an obi sash right, and a copper evening gown left by the New York fashion house of Gothé. The latter is made of rich brown silk taffeta. The bodice
is outlined with darker brown velvets embroidered with Soutache and
faceted bronze beads.
All these images of stunning vintage 1950s garments
are courtesy of
Read more about this high end seller on this website
For day, calf length,
small waisted full skirted cotton and cotton satin or seersucker dresses
with covered matching fabric belts, in glorious floral and botanical prints,
such as cabbage roses were typical choices. Autumnal leaves or green
ferns, cherries and acorns all looked good in lustrous cotton sateen and
were used for dress and scarf fabric prints. Fresh looking gingham
checks, diamond trellis checks and spots were also popular and all make for
very collectible fifties vintage now.
1950s - Straight Sheath Dresses
Also for day and in marked contrast, straight sheath dresses fitted and darted, or princess
seamed, were made from satin cotton in sleeveless and cap sleeve versions. Fine wool crepe
or Barathea was often used for a sleeved version. Many early fifties
garments had boat or jewel necks and nearer the sixties scoop necklines were
As the 50's decade progressed shirt styles were put atop the waist
of either a straight or full skirt making the shirtwaist dress a popular
practical style among young and old alike. 1950s shirtwaisters often
had three quarter sleeves and turn back cuffs. Many were made in
striped fabrics with typical colour combinations being navy and white,
emerald and white or candy pink and white as well as plain solid strong
colours like turquoise or coral.
1950s Suits and Accessories
glass styled suits were popular. Jackets that flared over the hip with
a hint of a peplum were both worn with calf length narrow pencil skirts and
gored fuller skirts, especially in the early 50s. In the mid to later
fifties many of the skirts began an upward creep toward the knees.
Garments had narrow rounded or sloped shoulders, scarf necklines, with wide
rather than low décolleté necklines, higher waistline seams and fluid
Juliet caps or decorated headbands and gloves accessorised them.
Another oft worn accessory was the fake flower corsage or a pin consisting
of acorns and autumnal foliage with berries or a pin made from cherries or
Coat with Dresses
One feature outfit of the fifties was the matching dress with either a jacket or
three quarter sleeve swing duster coat, sometimes also called an opera coat
when made in a glamorous evening fabric like satin or brocade. For day they
were made in crisp firmer cottons in solid colours.
Dress jackets varied in silhouette from
chopped off small boleros cut above the waist by a few inches having a
toreador effect, or jackets could be bloused at the waist or appear as hip
Other 1950s style aspects to look for are
kimono sleeves, mandarin collars, gloves of all types, printed foulard silk
or Tricel scarves and stoles or wraps in satin or fur. More casual dresses were also liked for holiday resorts and the halter neck
dress was a favourite holiday style along with playsuits of shorts and bare
midriff top in matching print fabrics. Unlike denim jeans strictly worn by
teenagers, mid calf Capri pants made popular by the Italian film industry
were worn for casual wear by women of all ages.
The 1950s motifs that were all the rage, were Venetian themes, masks, harlequins,
ballet dancers, playing cards, shells and fish, cats, cherries, daisies,
fruit segments, Hawaiian palm trees and pineapples. Images of Chinese,
African, Mexican or similar ethnic caricatures in appropriate hats that
might cause racial uproar today are often found on scarves, bags and
Poodle designs, Eiffel tower designs, hand painting and other novelty
designs such as cute kittens are often seen on fifties skirts, blouses and scarves. The skirts are
sometimes made of felt and often are circular in cut.
Kitten Motifs were a feature of 1950s skirts and tops of the era. Here
this blouse top coordinates with this typical easy
wear skirt, perfect
for rock and rolling. Images courtesy of
Read more about
collecting 50's vintage items (part
2) including Knitwear, Leather Jackets, 50's Vintage Denims - The Big E, Accessories, Scarves, Bags, Bakelite and Lucite Bags, Bags by Enid Collins, Chanel and Kelly Bags, Nylons or Stockings
and Costume Jewellery.
Read more about typical sources of 50's
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