Women’s Fashion in the 1950s
The 1950s post-World War II era, were a time of fashion evolution. Advances in textile technology subsequent to the war gave way to new fabrics such as spandex and easy-care finishes that suited suburban lifestyle for women in the 1950s. The 1940s boxy structure look with square shoulders and short skirts were replaced by Christian Dior’s “New Look” silhouette, which also gave way to an unfitted, structural look in the later 1950s. After years of military and civilian uniform, clothing restriction and shortages, Dior presented a new outlook in women’s fashion. “Television joined fashion magazines and movies in disseminating clothing styles” (Brockman, 54). The 1950s also became the transition from the formal and conservative style in the 1940s to a much freer, looser, and informal style. The Post-World War II economic expansion included an overflow of synthetic fabrics and easy-care processes. “Dip-dry” nylon, orlon and dacron, with its ability to retain heat-set pleats after washing, became enormously popular. Nylon stockings were an incredibly popular product because they were a lightweight alternative to wool and silk stockings. The 1950s introduced popular fabrics such as spandex, polyester, acrylic and triacetate. The new fabrics worked well with the suburban lifestyle in the 1950s. The most common daytime fabrics that were used during the 1950s were neutrals, rayon, nylon, poly-cotton blends, as well as acrylic and acetate. Wool and cashmere would generally be developed into sweaters. Eveningwear would generally be made of brocades, satin, velveteen, taffeta, nylon net, tulle and chiffon in both synthetic and natural fabrics (Fashion History). Christian Dior, a famous French fashion designer in the twentieth century, launched his collection in 1947 that revolutionized the world of fashion in the 1950s. Dior’s collection “the New Look celebrated ultra-femininity and opulence in women’s fashion” (Charleston). Resisted at first, particularly in America, though quickly changed as the trend dominated the fashion magazines, the radical new silhouette soon became immensely popular in the 1950s, influencing fashion designers for many years to come. De Rethy and Perreau’s book, Christian Dior: The Glory Years, 1947-1957, which celebrates the days when haute couture was about elegance rather than sensationalism. Before Christian Dior’s New Look came about, clothes were still scarce and women used to stitch together sharp-shouldered suits and knee-length skirts as makeshift wartime version of Elsa Schiaparelli’s slinky 1930s silhouette. The New Look became very suitable for the post-war era. De Rethy and Perreau mentioned that Dior was correct in assuming that people sought new fashion trends after years of war and hardship. Dior’s look fitted the traditional concept of femininity that suited the political agenda of women in the 1950s. Women that were mobilized to work in factories while men were fighting during the war. After the war, those women were expected to return to their suburban role as homemakers, housewives and mothers, leaving their jobs for the returning soldiers. The “New Look” by Dior launched on February 12, 1947, was characterized by a below-mid-calf length, full-skirt, pointed bust, small waist, and rounded shoulder line. According to Brockman’s, The Theory of Fashion Design, “the softness of the New Look was deceptive; the curved jacket peplum shaped over a high, rounded, curved shoulders, and full skirt of Dior's clothes relied on an inner construction of new interlining materials to shape the silhouette” (53). Throughout the 1950s, feminine dresses evolved, creating more styles. 1950s fashion experimented with a variety of styles; “the dresses became rounded, with ballerina length hem and cinched waists for a delicate, hourglass look” (VINTAGE). The “shirt dresses” consisted of shirt-like bodice, with gathered skirt, and a narrow belt were also popular during the era. The...
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