An Overview of Fashion in the 1950’s and 1960’s

Dancing Trousers

Fashion is very important in everyday western life. It defines who you are, what group you wish to be seen to be belonging too and who you are or would like to be. Far from an excess of consumerism it is an important factor in all social groups. Modern day fashions seem to go round and round but they started off following the second world war, here is an overview of the changes that happened in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

1950’s Fashion

In the 1950’s most of people’s possessions, including clothing, were passed on or recycled. With the end of rationing and post war economic growth, there came an increase in consumerism in which fashion played an important part.

Clothes became more readily available, materials and patterns to make your own, but mass production ‘off the peg’ clothing became available allowing people access to fashionable styles.

For children there were three tiered dresses with lots of material and boleros cardigans. Coloured shorts, tartan shirts and stripy T-shirts for boys.

Teddy boys dressed in drainpipe trousers, beetle crusher shoes – fluorescent pink socks and DA (Ducktail) haircuts. Leather jackets with jeans are always associated with this decade, nice boys however would look to wear sweaters and penny loafers.

In women’s fashion pencil skirts were favoured by older women, whereas wide swing skirts with big hoops for jiving were popular with the younger generation.

Generally a tailored, feminine look was the objective and accessories such as gloves and pearls were popular.

The shirtwaist dress was still the major staple of any woman’s wardrobe, brought on from 1947 when Dior released the ‘New Look’ silhouette. The look was a small waist, rounded shoulders worn with petticoats underneath to increase the skirt’s volume, and girdles to make the waist even smaller. Shirtwaist dresses worn without the petticoat were referred to as house dresses.

1960’s Fashion

The 1960’s were just as important a decade for fashion, as the 1950’s before. Fashion was led by the youth of the day, their income being the highest since the end of the second world war. Fashion and the ‘sense of self’ came hand in hand with the music that was listened to, even creating dividing fashion cultures between young people.

The British were the leaders of western style, the most commonly known conflicting styles being the Mods and Rockers. The Mods, named after the modern jazz that they listened to, went for the highly tailored suit look, worn with an anorak over the top – and having a moped was part of the look. The rockers were more for the 50’s rock ‘n roll music with the jeans and leather jackets – and motorbikes rather than mopeds.

In 1964 Mary Quant introduced the ‘mini’ skirt which is most associated with this decade. Although Quant had been designing clothes for young people since the 50’s, it was from this point in the sixties, where inexpensively made clothing suited to a busy urban lifestyle, designed in separates to be combined became most popular.

The late sixties saw the start of hippie styles. People looked to move away from the consumerism and materialism emerging with the mod and pop lifestyle.

The hippie look started with frayed bell-bottomed jeans, tie-dyed shirts, workshirts, sandals and headbands. Caftans, gypsy style skirts and dresses with all the bangles and scarves started towards the end of this decade and well into the seventies.

The biggest change of all in fashion this decade was actually in men’s clothing. For the first time bright colours and frills could be worn. Wide ties with stripes and prints, leather boots and the collarless jacket were making it onto the scene.

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