If you ever watched the TV hit series, “Happy Days”, you have some good ideas about Fifties fashions during that fabulous decade. Teenage girls’ costumes included cashmere twin sets and poodle skirts for date nights, nice, mid-calf length dresses to school and simpler skirts or even blue jeans at home. Trends were conservative, although rock and roll would soon change that. The casual hairstyle was a ponytail, wrapped in a scarf. When you washed the car, you might substitute the scarf for a bandana, which was easier to wash than chiffon.
Fabulous “Nifty” Fifties Trend Background
The Nifty Fifties were a continuation of Forties femininity, with a little added paranoia. Those men left alive had come home from war. The unusual thing about WWII was that for the first time, women’s work had expanded to all sorts of jobs—not just teaching or nursing. Women had worked in munitions factories, shipyards, banks—everywhere a man had gone to war, a woman had taken his place. But when the war ended, the factories and industries employing women dismissed them summarily and en masse. Women were sent home—even the single ones, the widowed with children, the ones who wanted and needed to work. Many women were delighted to return to housework and wifehood after years of hard work and privation. Some were angry and hurt at the change from wage earner to housewife. All were disenfranchised.
Soon, babies were created and born in enormous numbers. The Baby Boom forced the country into something resembling normalcy: after all, kids require diapers and kindergartens and puppies and homes in the suburbs. It’s hard to hang onto the vintage past when the future is cooing in your face.
50’s Feminine Fashions Meant Lookin’ for a Husband
Fashion changed with the country. Once again, a woman’s main occupation was in the marital hunt, and after the hunt, bliss and childbearing. For the hunt, women needed the tools of the trade—makeup, perfume, high heels, ultra-feminine wardrobes. In contrast to the scaled-down fashions of WWII, Fifties styles were fluffy with petticoats, bosomy and leggy. The Forties figure was slim and straight, with shoulder pads to make a bolder, more responsible appearance. The ideal Fifties era figure was rounded, curvy and made for love. Smart girls pretended dumbness and dumb girls reveled in being pretty. Movies started an odd trend, though. Eyeglasses became fashionable. Cat’s eye styles, rhinestones and bizarre shapes brought attention to the eyes. In “How to Marry a Millionaire”, Marilyn Monroe taught the world that men would make passes at girls who wore glasses—even rich men. (But in the movie, Marilyn’s character got the line wrong, saying, “Men aren’t attentive to girls who wear glasses”.
The 1950’s Married Housewife Glamour Girl
The quintessential ’50s married glamour girl was Lucille Ball, whose fashion sense was as rigorous as her business acumen proved to be. Lucy’s poodle haircut was perfect for the day; shorter, but perfectly controlled by permanent and frequent trips to the salon. Hair spray became commonly used, making more complicated hair styles possible. Peaches and cream make up replaced any previous vamp-styled pallor. Lips were rosy pink or red and welcoming; eyes were lined in mascara (the one cosmetic that has never gone out of fashion). Eyeliner made an appearance at night, as well as pastel nail color and eye shadow colors in blue and green. Foundation was de rigueur.
Evening Makeup Looks and Trends for the 50s
Evening cosmetics shimmered in shades of pink for lips and eye shadow reaching past the lid. Eyebrows were plucked thin and slightly high, as if to underscore the naiveté of the woman below them. Dimples were revered, but not freckles, unless you were a child. Bangs often consisted of pincurls, finger fluffed into a fringe. Women looked like dolls—the girl next door for daytime became an elegant Parisian model by night. For a nation returning from war, it was a return to a safe, romantic fantasy.
1950s teen party themes might include the sock hop, with dancers wearing rolled up jeans and penny loafers or vintage circle skirts and Oxford shoes.