The ancient writer of Ecclesiastes, said, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun.”
This certainly seems to be true when it comes to fashion trends.
Consider any fashionable item, whether it be a garment, a hairstyle or a piece of jewelry, and you’ll find another time era or culture where it was considered fashionable. Take, for example, these photos of teenage girls from the 1950s.
‘Teenagers’ didn’t exist until 1950 – girls were girls and young men were youths. As the post-war economy bounced back into shape, a consumer boom was kick-started in the U.S. Initially pushed as a new market grouping, teenagers soon came to dominate emerging fashion styles.
The mini skirt: a symbol of rebellious youth culture. Ultra short hemlines started trending in the late 1950s and saw their heyday in modern fashion the ’60s. But they were showcased in the 1920s by daring flapper girls.
Crinoline and net petticoats worn to give shape to ladies skirts, popular across Europe in varying degrees of extremes throughout the 1700s, made a comeback during the 1950s.
Although she may be flashing a little ankle, this girl’s tight bodice-style dress with its voluminous bell-shaped skirt is similar to early Victorian fashion.
The tunic dress – here worn with a belt – was introduced to the catwalk in the ’50s by Spanish designer Cristobal Balenciaga.
Every girl wants to be a ballerina!
A ’50s teen wearing a fascinator. Fascinators in various guises have gone in and out of fashion since the 19th century. They were a big hit in the 1980s, as sported by Dianna, Princess of Wales, and are considered a suitable alternative to wearing a hat for a number of formal occasions in Britain.
It was a decade of full skirts, natural waists (corsets had been popular before) and semi-formal suits similar to those worn by modern business women. While the broad outpouring of flashy and controversial styles of the 1970s would break many of the norms of the 20th Century, many of the styles which were popular in the 1950s remain fashionable today.
But the women’s fashion movement of the 1950s actually started in the prior decade. During, and because of, World War II, women’s choices in clothing were limited by the need to ration supplies like fabrics, threads, and needles. The most popular women’s outfits were simple and uniform as a result of the entire country making sacrifices to supplies the war efforts overseas.
The classy cinched waist silhouette of Dior’s New Look – reminiscent of mid-19th century styles – has influenced fashion ever since.
A 1950s fashionista shows off her version of the current ‘pattern clash’ trend.
Where would we be without the cardigan?
This was the era when synthetic fabrics such as rayon, taffeta, and nylon were starting to emerge.
This simple blouse and midi skirt would not look out of place on the highstreet today.
But as the war ended, an explosion of fabrics came roaring back in broad varieties and in copious quantities. Women enjoyed pleats, petticoats, stylish collars and clothes made of nylon, wool, rayon, and taffeta.
This was also the beginning of a huge economic boom, which further encouraged the manufacturing and marketing of stylish new clothing and apparel the likes of which women hadn’t enjoyed during the previous decade.
The bland, uniform styles of the 1940s were replaced with outfits that featured closely-fitted waistlines, puffy skirts, blue jeans, long and narrow dresses, rounded shoulders and shapely bustlines. Women once again had a way to showcase their individual taste and personality through the various choices of clothing available to them.
Tight perms? Yes, they did feature again in the late 70s and early 80s – for both men and women – before morphing into the crazy variety of 1980s statement hairstyles!
A stylish slip dress is a wardrobe essential for every girl – then and now.
The classic rockabilly style has not made it back into mainstream fashion, but its a fun and popular party theme.
High necklines and plenty of lace would remain popular until the late 1960s. Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-53194-0001 Wittig CC-BY-SA 3.0
Two ladies in the front row have chosen outfits with contrasting velvet features that echo the Neo-Edwardian Teddy Boy style. Photo by Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-55013-0003 – CC-BY-SA 3.0
Girl in Tel Aviv, 1950s. Her pleated midi skirt is on-trend for 2018!
Two girls in their dance shoes – perhaps taking a break from practicing their Lindy hop moves. Photo by Erik Holmén, Nordiska museet CC BY 4.0
More pouffed-out skirts worn by these teenagers with narrow belts to emphasize their natural waistline. Photo by Erik Holmén CC BY 4.0
Prom in the 1950s. Timeless simple lines for these formally dressed young ladies.
Girl in prom dress, USA, 1950s.
Cute girl in a sun dress. The gloves date her outfit, but the printed dress and neat heels still look modern today.
Matching skirts anyone? As manufacturing methods evolved, a wide choice of patterned fabrics began to grace our wardrobes.
A more casual take on the New Look.
Relaxing in the garden.
A smart button-front dress paired with comfy sneakers – perfect for a day of sightseeing.
Beauty Queen. The sweetheart neckline has never fallen out of fashion since the ’50s.
Strike a pose! Movie and music stars became the icons of the new ‘teenagers.’
Prom dresses tend to look a little different these days, but variations on the 1950s theme are still a popular choice.
This new explosion of fashion variety had started in 1947 with the famous “New Look” of Christian Dior. While women would eventually embrace the style, it didn’t go over well in the beginning.
Women who had grown used to working outside the house were not ready to go back to being mothers and housewives.
They considered the “New Look,” too extravagant and too much work to make all the pieces of an outfit come together just right. But in time, having survived the hardship and sacrifice of war, the booming prosperity won them over, the women of the 1950s fully embraced the consumerism which would define the rest of the 20th Century.