Most Popular 1950s Fashion Styles Influencing The Way We Dress Today
The 1950s fashion will forever be a fantastic source of stylistic inspiration for designers and fashionistas alike.
The 50s fashion decade blended timeless elegance with those times’ current trends into what we call the zeitgeist of the retro fashion movement nowadays.
In this article, I’ve gathered all the 1950s fashion influences you need to make a sartorial shift and tap into the romantic hourglass shapes and postwar silhouettes.
Leaving behind the utilitarian silhouettes of the sorrowful 40s, the 50s fashion was all about hyper-feminine looks established by new-to-the-scene designers.
That same 1950s clothing designers – Christian Dior, Pierre Balmain, Cristóbal Balenciaga, and Hubert de Givenchy – turn their businesses into the world’s most luxurious fashion brands.
Whether you want to learn how to dress 50s style in a modern way or are looking for new influences to upgrade your retro wardrobe, this article is for you.
Time to delve into the most casual 50s fashion looks for women and men and the best 50s fashion trends that dominated that era.
The 50s ‘New Look’ Dresses
In the 1950s, Christian Dior made waves with his first-ever couture collection, the “New Look.”
Featuring sloped shoulders, a raised bustline, the now-iconic waist-whittling shape, and a voluminous padded skirt ending just below the calf, the French couturier presented a brand new way to express radical femininity.
Even though Dior faced backlash from the feminist movent for the introduction hourglass figure, the dress revolutionized the 50s fashion scene by blurring the lines between daytime clothing and eveningwear.
Women immediately adopted Dior’s iconic style, and many popular clothing brands of the 50s started making their adaptations of the “New Look.”
Sported by the times’ movie stars and celebrities, Dior’s 1950s silhouette became a look that influenced fashion and pop culture up to modern days.
To create a 1950s style, like Christian Dior’s muses, opt for pencil dresses in solid colors, monochromatic or floral bustier dresses with sweetheart necklines or a full midi skirt.
Corset detail blazer dresses are another great option to incorporate 1950s fashion influences into your modern-day look.
50s Skirt Suits
Figure-flattering full A-line skirts and glove-fitted pencil skirts often styled with tailored, crisp, and structured matching peplum jackets became the 50s fashion uniform.
Plenty of 1950s fashion pictures showcase working women rocking skirt suits with tucked-in blouses and Percher hats in bold colors.
Haute couture designers like Dior, Balenciaga, Givenchy, and Chanel inspired many 1950s clothing brands to recreate this famous silhouette, making it accessible to women of all economic statuses.
The fastest way to create a modern 1950s fashion look is by choosing blazers with girdle or corsetry and a flare out over the hips.
Add a preppy style tight-fitted skirt to perfect the hourglass silhouette and create a cinched waist look.
1950s Pedal Pushers
As some of the most comfortable and functional fashion garments of the 50s fashion days, ready-to-wear women’s trousers became wardrobe staples.
Pedal pushers, initially worn by cyclists, were calf-length, tight trousers that served the sartorial needs of active women and teenagers of those days.
Audrey Hepburn is the best example of the 50s pedal pushers styles, often spotted wearing them in monochromatic shades and tucked-in blouses.
Flats and saddle shoes were great matches for pedal pushers and helped this smart casual 1950s women’s fashion look become very popular.
The Beatnik Straps
As the number of people interested in novels, poetry, music, and artwork continued to rise, a new culture started to form, the ‘Beatnik‘ culture.
Beatnik was a media stereotype prevalent throughout the late 1940s, 1950s to mid-1960s fashion, describing the underground and anticonformist youth gathering in New York.
The Beatnik ideology sparked a new fashion movement that, contrary to Dior’s famous “New Look,” saw Beatniks wearing dark-colored streamlined silhouettes.
The style featured berets, straight-leg cigarette pants from synthetic materials, black turtleneck sweaters, striped shirts, T-shirts, and vests.
This simplistic casual and rebellious 1950s women’s fashion aesthetic made numerous comebacks, with current-day Maisons like Fendi and Dior still showcasing 50s styles with roll-neck shirts, wide-leg trousers, and black jackets.
50s Pinup Girls
Paying homage to feminine sex appeal, 50s Pinup girls’ fashion draws inspiration from Hollywood stars.
1950s celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor, Natalie Wood, and Marilyn Monroe brought the fashion pinup look to the streets.
This 1950s aesthetic blended Burlesque, Rockabilly, and Old Hollywood Glamour – nowadays, the modern interpretation of this classic fashion look relies on the same principles.
As a base, start with fit-and-flare dresses, or poodle skirts, that could be upswept by the wind.
Mix with low scoop necklines, bustier tops, hot pants, sweetheart neckline bikinis, and dress-like skirted swimsuits that took over 50s fashion women’s looks.
Another must-have accessory relevant to the 50s fashion – for pin-up girls’ style – is the classic stilettos shoe.
The first stilettos with 4-inch heels were introduced in the 50s, and pinup girls were the first to adopt them with swing dresses.
50s Pencil Skirts
Grace Kelly’s iconic lime pencil skirt in ‘Rear Window’ is representative of the various styles that dominated the 50s fashion scene.
Christian Dior’s H-line collection featured straight lines emphasizing the waist to upgrade to the basic pencil skirt silhouette.
Pencil skirts were often paired with tucked-in sleeveless tops, but we’ve also seen multiple variations of pencil skirt looks with sweaters and chiffon or silk neck scarves.
There are many ways to wear the retro pencil skirt to create a modern 1950s fashion ensemble.
Combine mid-shin-length skirts with colorful cinching belts styled with fitted turtlenecks.
Equally, you can wear three-quarter cropped sleeve jackets in bolder colors or casual jackets with detachable collars and patch pockets.
50s Large Brimmed Hats
Some of the most popular clothing brands of the 1950s launched unique adaptations of the large-brimmed hat, often adorned with pins, feathers, beads, or ribbons.
Bigger and more dramatic than ever, these glamorous toppers became an eveningwear staple.
Inspired by 1950s film stars, women’s fashion followed the same casual styles, but instead of wool, these large brimmed hats were made out of straw with border prints.
50s Rockabilly Fashion
Amongst the many 1950s fashion trend, Rockabilly had perhaps the most recognizable influences of the decade.
As one of the earliest styles of rock and roll music hailing from the South of the United States, Rockabilly had a particular fashion style.
With great rock n’ roll and “hillbilly” singles, played by artists like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Buddy Holly, the 50s rockabilly style became an iconic look for generations to come.
For an ideal 50s rockabilly style, opt for a high-waisted pencil skirt and a knotted button-up, and finish the look with a red lip and dark eye makeup.
Another excellent option for a modern 1950s fashion rockabilly style is to pair a pair of tight cigarette pants with a chest pocket tucked-in t-shirt.
50s Greaser Style
The casual styles of 1950s women’s fashion took many forms, but the rockabilly and pin-up influencers were the most evident throughout the decade.
Drawing inspiration from the looks of Marlon Brando and James Dean, the male-dominated Greaser subculture was about creating “the right attitude.”
The Greaser style was a mix of the two trends above, with a dash of motorcycle-riding flavor added to the overall ensemble, aiming to recreate a movie star look.
For a perfect 50s fashion style, just like the Greasers girls, grab denim or, even better, a motorcycle leather jacket and match it with a pair of dark-washed denim.
Make sure you roll the leg up, at least to the ankle, in true Greaser style.
For a more continental style, accessorize the look with a chiffon scarf and a pair of casual shoes.
Another popular 50s fashion look comprises tight, cropped capris and pedal pushers styled with fitted t-shirts, almost like a uniform.
The Poodle Skirt
The Poodle skirt was one of the most fun 1950s fashion-for-women trends, boosted by those times fashion models in fashion magazines and TV shows.
However, the trend was launched by teens wearing felt circle skirts with an applique of a pink poodle on a silver leash.
Young women styled these cute day dresses and skirts in many creative ways, including matching them with minimalistic blouses, knit tops, sweaters, chiffon and silk scarves, and even gloves.
The look was so popular that the poodle skirt became known as the “first teenage fashion trend” in the dance-loving youth communities.
While nowadays, these embroidered styles are hard to come by, modern fashion aficionados interested in 1950s fashion can customize plain felt circle skirts by adding embroidery available on Amazon.
The 1950s fashion decade could be summarized in Marilyn Monroe’s “silly little dress” subway moment or the curve-enhancing waist belt worn by Audrey Hepburn.
Rightfully named the “Golden Age of Haute Couture,” the fifties decade was the genesis of the most iconic fashion designers and their modern Maisons.
Even now, in 2022, these high-end fashion houses and designer brands continue to draw inspiration from the casual 1950s women’s fashion styles to create sumptuous lines.
With the natural waist and hourglass figure at the center of the 50s fashion sphere, the 50s were a decade of cinched-in waists, slim and mini skirts, rounded shoulders, and exaggerated hips still visible in Coco Chanel’s exclusive creations.
Now it’s your turn…
Which one of these 50s fashion styles do you like the most and why?
Which 1950s fashion trends do you think we’ve missed and should include in our next article update?
Please leave your comments below; we always appreciate your comments and use them to learn, improve, and update these articles.
Konstantina Antoniadou is a seasoned writer focused on "green" innovation and sustainable technologies in the fashion industry. With almost ten years of expertise in media and publishing, Konstantina's articles have been published by leading digital fashion magazines in various languages, such as The VOU, Estro, Rewind Vintage Affairs, IndieGetUp, SustainablyKindLiving, and more.