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Casual American Fashions of the 1950s

Updated on April 28, 2014

The Style, Polish, and Color of 50s Fashion

More than any other ear the 50s holds a charm and fascination. The country was in a happy place. The war was over, everyone liked Ike (president Eisenhower), the economy was doing well. A man with a reasonable job could afford to support his family, and life was good.

The clothes symbolize it all. The happy colors, daring shapes and cuts with impractical va voom!

The traditions of decades past were still being observed. Gloves were worn for fashion, not just for cold weather, and hats were still fashionable, but were on their way out. Hairstyles were curled and set, while men had neatly groomed and trimmed, polished hair.

With the modern shapeless sacks of today, it is no wonder that we look back in awe at the beauty of men wearing square shoulders, short hair, looking like true men, women who were not afraid of wearing a dress or looking girly, and wonder what has happened to us.

Its the 1950s in all its glory.

The 1950s "New Look"

Small Waist of 50s New Look

Femininity was the ultimate goal, and having a small waist is considered to be ultimately feminine, because the S shape of a woman's waist to hip/waist to mid back, are one of the great differences between men and women.

This lady is the height of 1956 fashion, with her very full skirt, and tailored suit jacket that accentuates her nipped in waist to perfection. Also notice the little flare of the jacket on top of the hips. This actually adds the illusion of fuller, curvier hips. In the 1950s achieving an hourglass was the goal. If the hips look a little fuller in order to make the waist look smaller, then so be it.

The wide brim hats such as the one pictured left made its appearance in the mid 1950s, and this particular design, that turns slightly downward, were the rage from 1956-58. They could look stunning on models, but definitely did not work for everyone. This style was often paired with full skirts

Notice the pointed toes and thin, spiked heels.

Men's Bowling Shirts

Men's 1950's Casual

In the men's casual department there was a trend towards bowling shirts, and ultra modern geometric shirts, jackets, and ties.

The 1950s shirt to the left would have been worn tucked in. The trousers would sit slightly high on the waist. Casual slacks were slightly looser in fit than they had been in the 1940s. And the over all look was straighter shapes, fuller clothes, punchy colors, and polish.

A ski sweater and pleated trousers sitting slightly high on the waist were the perfect staple of a 1950s young, casual man.

The 1940s over all looked a lot fussier than the 1950s. The hanky that men traditionally wore in their breast pocket went from highly peaked in the early part of the century, and gradually became less dramatic, finally making its way to the 1950s straight across bar of color.

Frank Sinatra's Classic 50s Elegance

Frank Sinatra sporting a flat handkerchief in the 1950's
Frank Sinatra sporting a flat handkerchief in the 1950's

50s Geometic Ties

classic 1950's tie
classic 1950's tie

Desi Arnaz, The Ideal 50s Casual

Desi Arnaz paper doll
Desi Arnaz paper doll

The Clean Polished Look

This Desi Arnaz doll is sporting highly polished black shoes that pair well with his highly polished black hair, and a serious blue shirt. Colors were definite and un-afraid in the 50's. There was not much tolerance for muted shades that can't make up their mind what shade they really are.

This was true in clothing, cars, and even in decorating the inside of one's house.

High color was such a staple in the 50's, that designers refer to solid, opaque colors as 1950s colors.

Conservative business suits were very popular for men, and always worn on formal outings. Charcoal grey, single breasted, un- belted and, un-waisted with no back vent, was quite typical.

Slip on shoes for men were also fashionable in the 50s. The penny loafter made its debut. These were slip on shoes that had a small slit on the top, so that one could easily place a penny in.

Hats were worn, but the 1950s youth were fazing out the traditional business uniform of a suit and a hat. By the 1950s, they were no longer the standard for either men or women. Kind of sad for we women who love to wear hats, and love to see men in them too.

Marilyn Monroe, 50s Bombshell


Mermaid Dress

The mermaid dress became popular for younger ladies in the mid 50s. They were tightly fitted and usually flared at the knee. This dress style skyrocketed in popularity when Marilyn Monroe wore her red mermaid dress in the movie Niagara.

Paring this dress with ankle strap sandals for daytime or pointed toe heels for a more formal look, the mermaid dress enjoyed approximately eight years of popularity.

These dresses could be either floor length or just below the knee, and the amount of flare varies. This one that Marilyn Monroe is wearing is an early version. This shape eventually morphed into a more exaggerated shape with yards of fabric being sewn into the knee flare, creating a flippy and swingy movement around the knees


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