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50s Vintage Dresses

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The description of 50s Vintage Dresses

What Did Women Wear in the 1950s?

With Hot August Nights, the largest classic car show in the west happening this week, it has inspired me to take a look at 1950s fashion for women again. My hubby and I usually dress up in vintage or repro ’50s clothes before going out to see all the cars. Sadly not very many people dress up, or if they do it’s just in poodle skirts. I created the handy infographic above and additional info below to help you not only to understand some fashion history but also to figure out how to put together your own 1950s fashion look that goes beyond saddle shoes and felt skirt costumes.

1950s Fashion Dresses

There are two classic dress shapes of the 1950s. The most popular style today is the full skirt, tea length dress. The less popular but very classy look was the form fitting sheath dress (often called a pencil or wiggle dress today). Both styles had modest, snug fitting tops with narrow high waistlines, and shin length skirts. The full skirt required at least one but more likely several layers of petticoats or a hoop skirt to be worn underneath. Most women today skip the petticoat when wearing ’50s style dresses because they itch like crazy and don’t fit well in modern small cars with bucket seats. To get an authentic look, you will need a nice full petticoat worn over a slip to protect your legs.

1950s vintage dresses are very popular and still pretty easy to find in vintage clothing shops and online. They can be cheap ($15 on etsy.com for a simple cotton house dress) or pricey ($300+ for formal party dresses). Vintage is best but doesn’t usually fit like modern clothing. Waistlines were high up just under the rib cage, arm ease was tighter, busts were often enhanced with padded bullet bras so the ratio of bust to waist measurements can be quite drastic. For these reasons, there are now hundreds of repro and retro-inspired clothing designers who make their clothes fit modern body types. Check out the list of them here.

The only drawback to most new ’50s clothing designs is the lack of dress styles with sleeves, plus sizes and the sheath dress shape. The Pin Up look with tight fitting pencil skirt is inspired by 1950s sheath dress fashion. In reality, ’50s sheath dresses did not fit as snugly as new pin up dresses do today, but the overall style is the same and, my gosh, do they look amazing on women with curves! For that matter, both 1950s dress shapes look great on most body types. The fuller skirt dresses hide wide hips and thighs, while the sheath dresses accentuate the right curves in the right places. No wonder most women love to wear 1950s!

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