Fashion Trends in the Fifties
“It was different in the USA, where wartime restrictions had been quickly removed, and where the new ‘consumer society’ was forging ahead – helped by new developments such as the start of the credit card system in 1950. But these differing conditions produced a similar effect on fashion both in Europe and America – a tendency to prefer the safe and normal, a veering away from the radical and extreme. ‘Normal’ felt good, especially with the memory of the war still so fresh in many people’s minds” (Baker 6). Fashion is an important aspect to people’s lives, and is influenced by various parts of society. Sometimes there are practical reasons behind certain fashion trends, but there are some trends that have no apparent origin or purpose. Fashion can also influence other parts of popular or high culture, including music. “Rock n’ roll,” the music of the 1950’s, displayed young people’s (17-25 year-olds) interest in clothes, as heard in such pop tracks as “White Sports Coat” and “Blue Suede Shoes” (Baker 12). Regardless of purpose or origin, “style [in the 1950’s] often meant super luxury, whether it was the use of lots of shiny chrome or lace, shimmering with sequins” (Baker 11). During the 1950’s, style was not only a portrayal of one’s sense of fashion – it was a portrayal of who you were.
In the 1950’s, the role of a woman was to be in the home, and particularly in the kitchen. “Yet the usual media image of a housewife showed her not as a mother in comfortable trousers and sweater, or loose dress, suitable for such work, but as a doll-like figure dressed in rustling, full skirts, nipped waist and narrow-fitting bodice. Even her apron had deep frills and a heart-shaped top and pockets. The idea was that she should catch and keep her man, not by her personality and mind but by her young, slim, hour-glass appearance and long legs – all precariously supported on high stiletto heels” (Baker 28). Needless to say, women developed their style based on what was appealing to males. Not only was their sense of fashion an expression of their femininity, it was an expression of being on display, as seen in Tennessee Williams’ play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: “Big Mama has on a black and white figured chiffon. The large irregular patterns, like the markings of some massive animal, the luster of her great diamonds and many pearls, the brilliants set in the silver frames of her glasses, her riotous voice, booming laugh, have dominated the room since she entered” (Stott 663).
The dawn of the 1950’s saw a development of new artificial fabrics and fibers. This impacted everything from underwear to leisurewear. These new fabrics offered “lightness but warmth, minimum shrinkage, quick drying and waterproofing – that were exploited to the full extent in sportswear designed with an eye to both style and function” (Baker 16). One of these man-made innovations is nylon. Not only could it be used for lingerie and...