Women's 1950s Vintage Dress

Charlotte Gerber
Dancing in the 1950s.

Women's 1950s vintage dress emulated the French style of women's clothing. Designs of the era ranged from full skirts to sheath and sack dresses made popular by Parisian designers. While many people identify with the women's 1950s vintage dress worn by popular television moms, there was much more to fashion in this era.

Clothing Designers

There were many influential clothing designers in the 1950s. One of the major authorities was Christian Dior whose "new look" designs were popular amongst women that could afford to purchase custom dress designs. Many other 1950s couture designers include:

  • Main Bocher
  • Edith Head
  • Robert Piguet
  • Coco Chanel
  • Nina Ricci
  • Charles James

Those that couldn't buy custom made dresses either made them or purchased them off the rack at their local women's clothing stores. Many of these mass-produced designs can still be found in vintage clothing stores everywhere.

Clothing Styles

Many popular clothing styles from the 1950s are easily identifiable today. One only has to watch the ever-popular movie Grease to get a good idea about 1950s clothing styles.

Leather

The black leather jacket with the eagle on the back is reminiscent of the 1950s. Think of James Dean; pair the leather jacket with a pair of jeans, a white tee shirt and penny loafers. You can get that vintage look today by purchasing a vintage leather jacket, or buying a new black leather jacket with chrome accents.

Pants and Skirts

Women didn't wear pants constantly, though some made them a signature style, such as the actress, Katherine Hepburn. Teens could be seen sporting Capri pants in the summer, and they were often paired with ballet style shoes or anklets and saddle shoes.

Skirts were more the norm in terms of dress styles, and teens could be seen wearing pencil skirts (try wearing these to climb up a set of stairs), poodle skirts, pleated and circle skirts. While tiny-waists were in vogue, girls of every size could find a skirt style to enhance or minimize their body type.

Opera or Duster Coat Dresses

The opera or duster coatdresses were very popular for more formal occasions. These outfits featured a dress with matching coat. Fabrics were usually stiff materials such as brocade, though they could be made of satin as well. The sleeve lengths for these outfits were either a full sleeve or three-quarter sleeves.

Shirts and Blouses

Shirts that were popular for women were known as shirtwaisters. These shirts were typically made of striped material, though some were solid colors. The sleeve length was typically three-quarter, with the cuffs turned back. These shirts were worn with many of the popular skirts, such as the pencil skirt.

Shirts were also made in a variety of materials and decorated with motifs. Popular designs were Asian inspired, cherries, cats, poodles, the Eiffel Tower, sliced fruits, dancers and many others.

Women's 1950s Vintage Dress Accessories

Just throwing on a dress wasn't an option in the 1950s; accessories make the outfit! Favorite accessories for a fashion conscious lady included the following:

  • Horn-rimmed glasses with rhinestone accents
  • Gloves, both short and opera length
  • Bakelite and Lucite purses
  • Scarves
  • Stockings
  • Costume jewelry (charm bracelets, animal pins)
  • Pearl necklaces

In the 1950s, it was considered improper to not wear gloves and stockings with your outfits, especially when going to church or shopping. While not all young women wore hats, older women commonly wore them whenever they stepped out of the house to run errands, visit friends and Sunday gatherings.

Conclusion

If you like the 1950's fashion style, there are many places on the Internet to indulge. Sites sell specific items from the 1950s, such as costume jewelry, couture dresses or just shoes. A few favorite places to browse for vintage clothing and accessories:

You may also find women's 1950's vintage dress styles at local retro or vintage stores, the Salvation Army and in many eBay stores. Estate sales and auctions are also great places to literally find boxes of vintage clothing.

Women's 1950s Vintage Dress