Everyday Fashions of the Fifties

1950s fashions were more prim and proper than you might have gleaned from movies like Grease.

Everyday Fashions of the Fifties as Pictured in Sears Catalogs

For the final installment in our catalogue book series, we are examining the pages of the era that is probably best known when people think about retro fashion: the 1950s.

When 50s fashion is mentioned, most will think of pin-up styles, sexy tops and pencil skirts, victory roll hairdos and big circle skirts. And greasers à la James Dean and Mutt Williams.

Or skirts with poodle appliqués and cute little cardigans, in soft pinks and whites and pastels of movies such as Grease.

If that is your view of the 50s, and you were hoping to find page after page of the such styles, you might find this book well, a little disappointing, because it will set you straight in no time.

First and foremost, most of the looks in this book are prim and proper: a continuation of the 40s, with a slightly more voluminous silhouette in the skirt, and that very popular V-neck blouse with rolled-up short sleeves (which UNIQLO tends to sell each summer, all you need to do is roll over the sleeves a few times and stitch them in place). Menswear isn’t initially all that different from the previous decade, but it does cover the greaser look in a few spreads.

While swing skirts and swing dresses (some appliqué ones for the youth) can be found, they are few and far between. What you will find is a good rundown of daywear, evening wear, formal wear, coats, accessories and footwear. I feel that this has the best balance between children’s, mens- and womenswear of the books in the series.

There are looks with jeans and tight trousers in here, which were a little scandalous at the time. But if you were hoping to find all sorts of more sexy — for the lack of a better term — you’ll be shocked to discover just how boring most of the 50s were. Or at least, the 50s fashion catered to the majority of American consumers via a catalogues like Sears’.

Which is also the book’s weakness. The previous catalogue books gave you a good overview of what fashions looked like during their respective decades. This installment is all about mainstream wear; you wouldn’t know there really was a fashion revolution going on in the 1950s, especially in the later years of the decade.

But if you’re interested in what the general public wore, or are looking into a prim and proper everyday 1950s look, this is going to be very helpful.

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