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 THE WAY WE WERE

Fashion styles with man appeal

FASHION conscious women wanting to look their best in the “new” styles of the 1950s had to work hard at it. For the effects of war and a scarcity of materials made being “trendy” difficult. Here we take a look back to the days when the fashion scene began to change dramatically….
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FOR the times they were the height of sophistication. The styles had impact and “man-appeal.”
And they reflected a Britain which after years of war was finally managing to throw off the grimness of daily life and enter a new and better era.
The impact of what were described by Dior as the “new look” fashion collections was tremendous.
They came in 1949 at a time when Britons still only too clearly remembered the austerity of wartime clothing coupons and clothes made of inferior and poor quality materials.
The “new look” included the covering of the knees as hemlines fell dramatically to about 13 inches from floor level.
This led to improvisation among those who could not afford to go out and buy the latest creations.
Many visitors to this site will still remember their mums stitching deep frills around the hems of daughters’ dresses, probably inserting bands of different coloured fabric in the skirts of last year’s coats.
And it was not only the so called “working class” who resorted to such tactics. Even Princess Margaret was pictured wearing an obviously lengthened coat.
Fabrics were still below standard, and a 1951 a fashion expert on the radio show Woman’s Hour told listeners: “When buying a coat the secret is to hold the fabric up to a strong light. As much as you can see through it so can the wind blow through it.”
Whatever the designers came up with, though, the fashion conscious Miss or Mrs still refused to give up wearing trouser, although by today’s standards they could hardly be considered smart. They did, however, infiltrate into evening wear with wide trousers and tops (soon to be styled into the complete trousers suit outfit) becoming acceptable for a night out on the town.

When the wig was big

THE wig was big half a century ago.
Almost every fashionable woman had one in her wardrobe, carefully kept to transform her normal, natural look into unlikely blondes, red-heads and jet-blacks.
It was not a fad which lasted long – about two years in all. But it was one which for a time certainly caught on.
So did frocks with floral designs on them.
AS colour began to return to fashion so floral dresses became ever more outrageous. Even plain outfits sprouted pinned-on artificial flower sprays.
According to one fashion magazine of the time: “Be bold. Artificial flowers must be larger than life - improvements in size and quality on nature.”
With Britain still in a period of austerity fashion magazines were full of bright ideas on how to “make-over” clothes. Hats could be brighten up by the addition of a pin-on veil and plastic started to make an impact on the fashion scene.
White plastic handbags started this trend and were warmly welcomed as they could be easily wiped down and cleaned. Then came the plastic incursion into footwear in particular boots which were tight and elastic topped.
Cuban heels, popular at the start of the decade were soon to be dumped for the much more stylish stiletto.
Beneath their clothes most women still wore a corset which according to one expert could be “quite a lightweight garment.”!
“It does not have to be full of bones to do you good.” Also popular were corselettes, all-in-one undergarments.
According to an official survey in 1951, 70 per cent of women in Britain were 5ft 4ins tall and this resulted in the production of vast numbers of short waisted suits designed for Mrs Average.
She also went in for a touch of white at the neck and wrists, the favoured material being stiff pique which could be detached from a garment for a wash and stiff starch after wearing.

Written by The Editor - 24/11/2006 12:38:48

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