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1950s style dresses

  • Monroe, Dior, prom dresses and more: 1950s fashion and today’s eveningwear

    Only a fool who knew nothing of women’s fashion would claim that vintage and retro weren’t in and it’s only about the high-street – vintage and retro are absolutely in and from no decade more so than the 1950s. Not least when it comes to the more formal end of the fashion spectrum. But why? Why are women of all ages turning to that era’s looks – and why have the ’50s always been a touchstone for eveningwear to hark back to…?

    1950s style dresses

    The context

    In many ways, the ’50s were about reconstruction; the West was putting itself back together in the aftermath of the Second World War. In the UK, this meant an age of austerity – sound familiar? – but in the US, by contrast, it saw booming industrial and economic development, more cash in people’s wallets (especially the young) and a desire for colour, style and self-expression after the previous decade’s restrictive war years.

    Indeed, fashion designers became genuine household names across the planet (the likes of Christian Dior and Hubert de Givenchy); they resurrected haute couture and rebelled against the austerity-influenced styles of the 1940s by producing clothes that thoroughly celebrated femininity and the female form. For that reason alone, 1950s eveningwear – with its elegance and oh-so easy-on-the-eye appearance – has remained a constant standard against which much of the eveningwear that’s followed has been measured, as well as influencing so much of what’s come in the decades since.

    The fashion

    Specifically, 1950s dresses suitable for a night out on the town were all about figure-hugging shape at the waist and above but blossoming out with lots of fabric beneath. It’s a timeless look, all right, and understandably popular for women’s eveningwear today – for everything from formal events to school, college and university proms. Colour too was in; as bold and vivid as you like, or more delicate with vibrant floral prints. The emphasis then was on the silhouette (as so often with women’s fashion, of course), but in this decade it was firmly on celebrating the natural female hourglass figure. That said; a mini-revolution occurred with Dior turning his attention to slim-figure-favouring A-line dresses and the take-up once again of the notorious little black dress (LBD).

    The influencers

    Technically speaking, the multi-media age pre-dated World War Two, but it really kicked into gear in the 1950s, as the West recovered from that conflict’s widespread and deep destruction. Like never before then, the very biggest celebrities were fully-fledged multi-media stars; if they weren’t on the big screen, they were being interviewed on TV or being featured in several-page-long spreads in glossy, colourful, hugely popular and influential fashion magazines. Most of the time, of course, they were appearing in all three at once.

    To this end then, the female icons of the age were bigger fashion icons – and walking advertisements for the fashion industry – than ever before (and in a way we relate to greatly nowadays). Indeed, such icons are still revered today; perhaps more than anything else for how they dressed – so to say that fact didn’t inspire what became fashionable (and remains timelessly fashionable still) would be a big understatement.

    1950s style dresses

    But who were they? Well, we’re talking the likes of Grace Kelly (the Hollywood princess who became a real princess) and Marilyn Monroe (the sex symbol who wasn’t afraid to hide her vulnerable soul), both unforgettable in those voluminous dresses of the era; then there were the European glamour pusses that were Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren (both with their hourglass figures and on-trend fashion to match) and, conversely, the slim-lined gamine appeal of the adorable Audrey Hepburn (whom effectively served as Givenchy’s muse). These are unforgettable names today, the mere mention of which summon up visions of unforgettable images – and 1950s style dresses, of course.

    Thanks to all these factors then, it’s no surprise that stylish, elegant women’s fashion from the 1950s not only continues to influence the very best of today, but is turned to by women throughout the world when dressing themselves up to the nines whatever the special occasion. In short, you can’t beat the ’50s look – it’s a timeless era of fantastic formal fashion that’ll always be a touchstone, always be relevant and always be wearable.

  • From boutiques to websites: the dos and don’ts of vintage shopping

    It’s a familiar tale for lovers of vintage fashion everywhere – whether they’re shopping in a physical store or online – waiting for that ‘eureka!’ moment. The sensation of coming across that one item you know, instinctively and for sure, is absolutely for you. But how can you encourage that moment? Is there any way you can help bring it about, beyond scouring vintage outlets and websites?

    Is it a case that mastering the old when it comes to fashion requires some sort of ancient know-how or is it best just to rely on dumb luck and a magpie’s eye for what you like? Well, the truth is there’s no real formula you can deploy, but there are one or two tips and tricks out there you might want to try out to, yes, tip your vintage shopping scales in your favour…

    Where should you go for vintage shopping?

    There’s no hard-and-fast rule here, nor should there be. After all, vintage shopping should be about fun. Finding an outlet that catches your eye; rummaging through the rails and coming across something that brings a smile to your face. More specifically, though, shops and markets tend to be great sources for vintage clobber, while the online option is obviously terrific too; especially if you know the sort of thing you’re looking for to start with – like, say, 1950s style dresses.

    1950s style dresses

    When is it worth spending money on an item?

    The essential, fundamental question. Approach it by asking yourself four further questions: what’s the quality like? How’s it going to fit? Can you really afford it? And did you feel a surge of excitement when you came across it? If all these questions get an up-tick, then the answer’s probably yes.

    How best is it browse in a vintage store?

    Again, there’s no rule-of-thumb here; your best bet is to go about it in the way that feels most natural – maybe just stepping inside and heading for the nearest section or to start with what catches your eye. Having said that, if it’s a store with a particularly large number of offerings, then a good habit may be to push everything back on each rail so you can flick through each item quickly and individually.

    Plus, as noted, if you’re searching for vintage clothing online, then your best bet may be to seek out what you’re specifically after in first; as much because it’s likely the website will be set up to facilitate you doing this. After that, though, why not check out what other treasures and bargains they contain!

    What should make you buy an item?

    That should be entirely up to you! And, frankly, will be dependent on what you’re looking for – whether you’re searching for something in particular and find it or whether you’re browsing at ease and come across something that takes your fancy. It also may depend on what sort of fabrics you like – are you a stickler for silk? Or a lover of linen? Or a died-in-the-wool fan of wool? Remember that good fabrics always suggest good quality and should last.

    What shouldn’t make you buy an item?

    Conversely, be on the look-out for any items that are damaged or obviously stained. There are bargains to be had out there, but that doesn’t mean you have to scrimp on quality.

    Finally, what about fit? Should you buy something that will need tailoring afterwards?

    Some vintage shoppers don’t mind buying something that isn’t exactly their size – and, of course, depending on style; some items can be worn looser than others – yet others swear by going by size every time. You’d be well advised to do the latter when shopping online for vintage because, in that scenario, you can’t try on an item until you’ve received it at home, of course. Yet, if it’s an item you really want, there’s no real reason why shouldn’t be open to the idea of tailoring either.

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