Thursday, May 15, 2014

Late '50s Clothes

For most men and women, the clothes of the late 1950s carried on in the same vein as the rest of the decade, with an interest in color and opulence that was a reaction to the trauma and austerity of the World War II years. The only dissenting voices were those of the beatniks and some teenaged rebels, although these were well-publicized in films such as "Funny Face" and "The Wild One."

Women's Clothes
The late 1950s offered women a costume for every occasion. A well-to-do housewife might wear a trim cashmere twinset for her morning engagements, a short raincoat and scarf for going out shopping, a skirt-suit with a small hat and gloves for afternoon tea, and a cocktail dress with either a bolero jacket or large bell-shaped overcoat for dining out or going to the cinema.

The New Look
Still dominating women's fashion during the late '50s was the 
so-called New Look created by Christian Dior in 1948. Despite its name, the New Look was in fact a revival of a pre-World War II sense of extravagance, updated with modern "blotch design" prints referencing the latest trends in art, such as the abstract paintings of Jackson Pollock. The key features of the look were narrow, sloping shoulders, a nipped-in waist and a flared skirt resulting in a sleek, new version of the classic hourglass figure. The iconic New Look garment was the cocktail dress with its combination of modern skirt length and plunging neckline. The addition of a matching bolero jacket lent the outfit versatility, making it the perfect choice for both entertaining in one's own home and going out on the town.

Men's Clothes
While the dominant influence on women's clothes was France, for men it was Italy. For formal occasions and work, an Italian suit, be it single-breasted with slim lapels or double-breasted with wide shoulders, was the standard of masculine chic. In more relaxed surroundings, the average man would wear flannel slacks, a tweed jacket and a knitted sports shirt.

Beatniks and Rebels
The Beatniks were by and large young intellectuals who showed their rejection of what they saw as the thoughtless consumerism of their elders by dressing in a unisex costume of black slacks and black polo-necks. You can see a mocking portrayal of their ways in the Audrey Hepburn musical "Funny Face," which also parades the fashions of the day. The rebels were young outsiders typified by the sort of character played by James Dean in his tragically short film career, but their style icon was Marlon Brando in "The Wild One" with his uniform of jeans, white T-shirt and leather jacket.

No comments: