There is no denying it: retro clothing has come into its own. Vintage stores abound and more and more designers are incorporating the trends of half a century ago into the styles they send to retail shops. While you could certainly patronize a store dedicated only to 1950s style, any piece you spy there is likely to be quite expensive. So long as you understand what you are searching for, almost any clothing store—or even your local sewing shop—can serve your fashion needs.
Sources for 1950s Fashion
For any woman looking to create an outfit based on 1950s style, one of the first sources to spring to mind might be a vintage clothing store. While this is certainly a good lead, true vintage clothing of good quality is, predictably, expensive. Pieces must arrive in the store with relatively little wear and tear to be of any value to a store billing itself as vintage. For plus size women, the added consideration is the sizing component. Though the same nominal sizes are used, the values attached to the numbers have changed. What was called a size 14 in the 1950s may now be represented by a size 8 to 10. So dresses and skirts for plus size women are unlikely
to be available in resale shops. For those who are inclined to the sewing machine, however, vintage patterns are widely available, relatively easy to scale up or down, and will produce a vintage garment for less cost than could ever be purchased in a vintage store. And the greatest benefit of going the DIY route is that you can design it to your exact needs and desires. But one can certainly find pieces emblematic of the 1950s in modern retail stores.
The 1950s Dress
Even when other parts of an outfit might change, the most central part of a 1950s ensemble, for a woman, was the dress. It might be fancy for an evening out, plain and utilitarian for wearing around the house, or simply pretty for a meeting with a friend. Women rarely wore pants; although tailored slacks with equally tailored blouses were worn around the home or at occasions that were clearly casual, when a dress was not worn, it was because a skirt had been chosen instead. Therefore, the key component of any sort of a 1950s style outfit will be a dress.
So, what to look for in a dress that will resemble (or not) the one worn by your
mother or grandmother? The garment itself was highly versatile, and could be worn many ways. Dresses with high empire waists were quite popular, as it emphasized the narrowness of the waist in comparison to the hips and the bust. The hourglass shape had become popular after the war, a fitting reminder of the return to the old order disrupted by World War II. Scoop-necked and dresses with high collars will work nicely, particularly specimens with fitted sleeves, though bare shoulders were not uncommon, particularly in evening dresses. Belts helped with the process, and darker belts work nicely. But once again, the style did change, with shirt and sack dresses also seeing popularity.
Dress Alternatives, and Other Important Items
Skirts, whether as separate pieces or as the bottom of a dress, had shortened to falling a bit below the knee. They tended to be full at the hem, once again emphasizing that hourglass shape. Petticoats were sometimes worn beneath them, forming the full structure and the shape immortalized in the poodle skirt. Such undergarments are not necessary, but can certainly help to form a structure that calls to mind a more casual, youthful feel. But, depending on what part of the 1950s you wish to emulate, you might be interested in a slimmer skirt that fits closer to the body, which has the benefit of emphasizing curves.
And what of accessories? Handbags were fairly small, squarish items, with handles
for the eponymous carrying method. Hats, scarves, the famous string of pearls, and gloves were also common, as well as shoes featuring short stiletto heels. This might be one of the best ways to inject a little bit of modern fashion into your outfit, bringing the past into the present.
A 1950s outfit hardly a difficult one to put together. The classic image is one of clean lines with glamorous, refined accents that still has a hold on women today. It is available to any woman who wants to don it, and grasp that image of the refined, yet very feminine, silhouette.