Fashion in 1950's

Topics: World War II, Haute couture, Fashion Pages: 7 (2088 words) Published: October 26, 2012
World War II started in mid-Europe, just as World War I had done, this time under the leadership of another German thirsting for power, Adolf Hitler. The war then became global when Japan bombed the ships and planes of the United States Navy in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. It became imperative to convert the national economy from peacetime production to all-out war production. The outbreak of World War II in 1939 brought a significant change to the world. Eighteen million women were employed in the war.  After the war, most returned home while some continued their work. Some of them actually joined the fashion industries and made huge contributions to the fashion career. Undeniably, the economy of a country and the fashion industries were closely related and fashion industries then became multi-billion dollar global enterprises.  

“The winter of 1944-5 saw the birth of a new, joyful era as the world was free once more. Fashion enjoyed a similar liberation.” (Demornex J., 1989, p. 47)  As soon as the World War II ended, the post-war economic boom began as well, the fashion industries too began to restore in the 1950’s, in a different style but sophisticated way. Either mass production industries or haute couture designers such as Christian Dior and Cristobal Balenciaga have used large amounts of synthetic fibers. They welcomed the new blended or synthetic fibers such as Nylon in their product and design, but in different way. Christian Dior launched his first collection, New Look which was a triumph for the ‘Corolle’ line, but at the same time, Cristobal Balenciaga focused instead upon the ‘Barrel’ line. In general, there was no change of direction on both the economic or fashion scenes to mark the start of the new decade.

“The fashion look of the 1950’s was a sophisticated one” (Ruby J., 1989, p. 7), women wanted to look perfectly groomed with matching accessories and lovely make-up. This beauty business became huge after the war. At the same time, ‘American style’ became popular in the UK. It was more practical rather than romantic, colourful and more casual than European’s style. Practical shirtwaister dresses, sweaters, shorts and blue jeans were fashionable, creating a more relaxed and sporty look. Also, one of the most interesting features of the 1950’s was the young revolution. Many of Figure 1: The malt shop and jukebox were 
iconic elements of 1950s youth culture. Figure 1: The malt shop and jukebox were 
iconic elements of 1950s youth culture.

the young people were then economically independent and had greater freedom. They wanted to style themselves by their own ways rather than copying their parents. As in the figure1, girls tented to wear shorter and relax skirt in prints rather than long dress people wore before the wartime. 1950’s might define as the start of fast fashion for youth. Department stores began opening up teenage boutiques to cater the new market. In 1955, Mary Quant opened her first boutique on Kings Road, London with aiming clients under 25 years old. Some others would say Quant making a most potent symbol in 1960’s fashion but she also made a cataclysmic effect to London’s fashion in 1950’s. Her design responding to the needs of youth and provided smart and relatively inexpensive clothes that were both original and colourful and these soon became immensely popular. As the rapid growth of the market demand for all these cultural and social changes, fashion industries started to take this opportunity to expand their career.

During the 1940’s to 1950’s, the ready-to-wear industries were speedy growing up. Many large department stores expanded providing better variety and availability of good quality clothes. These might affect by the social changes but mostly because of the increases of synthetic fibres (such as nylon and rayon) and the disappearance of the restriction of using fabric after the World War II and therefore fashionable clothes could be produced on a large scale for...

References: Figure 1: 1950’s Youth Cultures, [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 20th Oct 2012]
Figure 2: Dream homes and dream families.
Baker, P., 1991. THE 1950s (Fashion of a decade series), p. 23. UK: B. T. Batsford.
Figure 3: The complete anniversary collection, 1957.
Lehnert G., 2000. A History of Fashion: In The 20th Century, p. 49. UK: Konemann.
Figure 4: Balenciaga Coat, 1950’s, [Online] (Updated June 2012)
Available at:
[Accessed 20th Oct 2012]
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