This era fashion is frequently marked as the Dior’s New Look. The post war Baby Boom was at its height during this time. Television reflected the way people dressed. It was the decade fashion was heavily influenced by the birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Dior’s 1947 New Look had symbolized a new hope and by the 1950s both hope and style were fully embraced. The hourglass silhouette remained. In addition to the full skirt, slender pencil skirts were worn too.
The 1950’s saw the birth of prêt-à-porter (ready to wear) fashion. America led the way with ready-to-wear, once restricted to the wealty, was available to the general population.
Both men’s and women’s activities centered around family and home, clothing changed as a result. Emphasis for women was on practical but attractive housedresses. A female function was to entertain or attend social gatherings, all to promote and further their spouse’s career. Cocktail dresses, short versions of ball gowns, were essential. A woman was expected to wear a hat outside of the house and gloves at all times, short for day, long for evening. Men tended almost to universally wear suits. The practice of dressing young people like their elders was still common, with the ‘mother/daughter’ look as particularly in voque.
The second half of the 1950’s still emphasized women dressing for ‘their man’. Structural garments (such as stiletto heels, girdles and bullet bras) were designed to highlight the natural appeal of a woman’s figure.
The economy boomed and travel became affordable, encouraging worldwide ethnic influences on fashion. Hawaiian textiles were popular for summer wear.
Social changes went hand-in-hand with new economic realities, and one result was that many teenagers who would have become wage-earners early in their teens before the war now remained at home. In the United Kingdom, the Teddy Boys created the first truly independent fashions for young people, favouring an exaggerated version of the Edwardian-flavoured British fashion with skinny ties and high waisted, pleated trousers worn short enough to show off garish socks. In the United States, Greasers had a similar social position with their Rock ‘n’ Roll style.
Previously, teenagers dressed similarly to their parents, but now a rebellious and different youth style was being developed.
In the latter 50’s two new looks arrived on the scene. Dior was not the sole practitioner of the fashionable silhouette. Balenciaga was also influential and in the mid 50’s he created flawlessly cut clothing with loose, stand away backs with fitted fronts and shorter sleeves. He also introduced the sack dress, a shapeless shift, which was far removed from the hourglass silhouette that had endured for a decade.
In 1958, Yves Saint Laurent successfully presented the Trapeze Dress for the house of Dior. More structured than the sack dress, but still offering comfort and freedom, its look eventually envolved into the mid 60’s babydoll style.