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Feminine 1950s fashion

After the end of World War II, the labour market was expected to recover with a male workforce, and women were encouraged to return to their traditional roles as housewives. The image of women reflected the welfare of their husbands.

1950s fashion was the last decade when women wore ultra-feminine, intricately designed clothing, hats and gloves, even in the warmer months. Cat-eye eyeliner, red lipstick, and jewellery completed the image of a modern woman who strived for perfection and chic.

Fashion was a key part of the popular press. In addition to specialized fashion magazines such as Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, many newspapers and general magazines have created sections about fashion trends.

The dominant style of the decade was the New Look, created by Christian Dior in 1947. The path of this silhouette from high fashion to copy for the masses was thorny. Clothing rationing continued in many European countries, and the new trend required excessive amounts of fabric. The fashionable length of the skirt was mid-knee. Wide skirts were decorated with frills and bows. Bright floral prints or stripes were often used.

Dior created not only wide skirts, but also tight-fitting skirts (H and Y silhouettes) could be found in his collections.

At that time, many fashion houses flourished in Paris. Rich fashionistas also dressed in the creations of Cristobal Balenciaga and Hubert de Givenchy. Balenciaga created his collections contrary to general fashion. He believed that everyday clothing should be simple and strict, and evening clothing should be luxurious. He preferred to work with stiff fabric, which gave his creations a look like sculptures.

Audrey Hepburn wearing a Givenchy suit shooting the film "Sabrina" (1954). Models wear Balenciaga coats, 1950s.

In the mid-1950s, Mademoiselle Chanel returned to the haute couture scene. At that time, she created the tweed two-piece suit and Chanel 2.55 quilted leather chain handbag, which are still the hallmark of the fashion house.

Audrey Tautou as Coco Chanel in "Coco Before Chanel" (2009).

Film stars were coveted clients of high fashion houses. Film festivals in Venice and Cannes, and the Oscar ceremony, turned into real fashion shows where famous actresses competed with each other.

The cult of celebrity had an inestimable influence upon fashion. Popular film stars demonstrated a wide range of beauty ideals: from the gamine Audrey Hepburn to the sultry Gina Lollobrigida and Sophia Loren; from the glamorous Grace Kelly, luxurious Elizabeth Taylor, to the sexy Marilyn Monroe.

Special occasion wear was an important part of 1950s fashion. Whatever one’s budget, it was important to look as well turned out as possible when you were invited as a guest to a wedding, dance or party. One increasingly popular social event was the cocktail dress bridged the gap between daytime and evening wear. The strapless luxurious fabric ball gown with long gloves was a classic 1950s evening look.

An afternoon or evening dress might have combined a coat lined with dress material. The coat was a universal wardrobe item and a key investment for a woman on a tight clothing budget.

Young women who regularly drove or travelled wore short jackets.

Tight-fitting dresses have developed the quality of lingerie. Bustiers and a new type of elastic corset appeared, tightening the waist up to 50 cm. High-quality artificial fabrics were increasingly seen as a serious competitor to natural fibers. They were easy to wash, dried quickly and did not require constant ironing. Popular colours for underwear included pink, cream and white. New synthetic fabrics have made thin nightgowns and pyjamas available to most women.

In the late 1950s, seamless tights gradually replaced stockings.

Manufacturers of fashionable clothing used plastic: for aprons, raincoats, glasses. Cat eyeglasses were especially popular.

The 1950s were the last decade in which a hat was considered an absolutely essential part of a woman's wardrobe. At the beginning of the decade, fashionable hats were compact, fitted tightly to the head, sometimes with a face-veil. By 1956, hats were deeper and higher crowned, with bolder forms. By the end of the decade, only women who preferred a conservative style wore hats. Few women were prepared to crush their carefully styled and lacquered tresses under their hats. Instead, they might wear a lightweight headscarf to protect them from wind, rain and other unfriendly weather conditions.

It is impossible to imagine a woman in the 1950s without pearls. They were worn both in afternoon and during formal evening events. Many women even wore pearl necklaces at home. Stud earrings were worn during the day, and more elaborate dangling earrings were worn in the evenings.

Thanks to Hollywood stars, the new product of the decade came into fashion – stiletto heels. They were first introduced in 1952. Women who tried to wear the first stiletto heels encountered problems. Printed publications warned them about the dangers of heels, although at that time they were not so thin. The heels broke, scratched the floor, got stuck in the drain grates, but this did not stop the fashionistas.

Ballet shoes became popular among young people. They were convenient to dance the increasingly popular rock and roll.

In the USSR in the 1950s, a youth movement of stilyagi appeared. They were inspired by American culture and music, copying the images of Hollywood actors and rock and roll stars. Their brightly coloured clothing contrasted with the traditional gray and brown colours of Soviet clothing.

The 1950s are considered the golden period in fashion history, and its influence is also felt in modern collections. Fifties fashion continues to inspire designers and stylists.

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