I get it. You are going to a one-time event or dressing for a school play or you are a broke college student surviving on cans of soup. Money is tight, budgets are small but you need a 50s dress NOW. Most quality vintage reproduction 50s dresses will run upwards of $200 or a little less if it’s vintage-inspired with cheaper materials. Even very cheap Halloween 50s costumes can set you back $75 for a complete sock hop outfit. What is a gal to do? Don’t worry, I have some online brands to recommend and a few to avoid that have 50 dresses from $20 to $50 for sale in the USA and UK.
50s Dresses for Cheap – USA
Lindy Bop – Lindybop is the best well know “cheap” 50s dresses designed in the USA and UK. They have adorable novelty print swing dresses and classic wiggle dresses for around $42 to $49 dollars full price. Sale items go much lower than that! They have a wide range of sizes from XS to 6XL.
Lindy Bop dress- from housewife to party dresses
Hell Bunny I own more Hell Bunny dresses than any other brand. I love them. Most are made of a nice weight cotton and come in cute 40s and 50s silhouettes. They fit well, have plus sizes and are priced in the $50 range. Hot Topic carries the brand and they often have 20% off sales lowering the price even more. I have found some ionclearance for $20! Hot Topic has other retro 50s dresses in the $50 range worth looking at too.
Hell Bunny 50s Dresses
Unique Vintage – While they carry a lot of brands listed on this page they also have their own house brand with many dresses starting at $48. They are usually solid colors or polka dots with simple, flattering silhouettes. I like to get them and add details like a collar, piping, pockets, and a belt to make them even more “50s.” Check the clearance section too for more good deals.
Unique Vintage Brand Dresses are affordable
Mode Mundo – Carries the popular Chinese brand Chicstar in sizes from XS to 6XL. They have some timeless 50s dress like the polka dot party dress, black cocktail dress and sailor dress. The quality is good and the designs are unique to this brand. ModeMundo is my SIL’s website that I encourager her to start by selling Chicstar because they ARE affordable and the quality is pretty good. She gives great customer service too : )
Swing and wiggle dresses at Mode Mundo
50s Dresses for Cheap – UK
Lindy Bop UK – Lindybop is the best well know “cheap” 50s dress designer in the USA and UK. They have adorable novelty print swing dresses and classic wiggle dresses for around 42 to 49 euros full price. Sale items go much lower than that! They have a wide range of sizes from XS to 6XL.
Lindy Bop Dresses
Pretty Retro – A sister company to my favorite UK brand, House of Foxy, their Pretty Retro dresses come in plain colors, popular prints, and classic silhouettes. They are great for swing dancing or as vintage tea dresses. Starting at 54 euros. UK sizes 12-18
Pretty Retro red shirtwaist 50s dress
Dolly and Dotty – Love polka dots? Dolly and Dotty are well known for their cute dresses with polka dots. They have other prints too like florals and stripes. Simple designs, UK brand. 35-62 euros.
Dolly & Dotty Fun 50s dresses
H&R London (Hearts and Roses) – Combining classic 50s and gothic vintage together for a unique collection of 1950s inspired clothing. Many dresses have long sleeves and a true tea length hemline. Prices start around 25 euros and go up to 67. Standard and plus sizes. UK8 to UK24
Hearts and Roses (H&R) London 50s dresses
VooDoo Vixen (USA store) Another one of my favorite brands is VoodooVixen. They find the cutest prints and embellish plain dresses with details often missing from other brands. 20-60 for most dresses. One thing I don’t like is how short most of them are. True 50s dresses had mid shin lengths. Most VoodooVixen dresses are at or above the knee.
VooDoo Vixen 50s Dress – Love this Tiki sarong dress and nautical swing dress
Banned – This brand is carried by a lot of pin-up and rockabilly retailers and priced reasonably at $39 to $65 for a dress. I find some extra good deals on Amazon in the $40 range.
Banned 50s dresses
eShakti – I have a few dresses from eShakti, that embrace the 50s style without being strictly vintage designs. There is a lot of love besides the price (most dresses are under $60 with frequent sales) such as the full-size range from XS to 6XL. You can get a custom size made as well so if you need a bigger bust and small waist they can accommodate. You can also customize the neckline, hem length, sleeve type and other details. It is like designing your own unique dress. I sometimes find a vintage 50s dress I love and will go to eShakti to see if I can re-create it with all the custom options. They ship to the USA, UK, AU, Canada, Singapore and UAE. Clothing is designed in New York (USA) but made in India. Orders arrive in 2-3 weeks.
One of eshakti’s 50s style dresses
Amazon, Amazon UK, Amazon AU -Amazon hosts a number of brands mentioned above as well as cheap knock-off brands. The quality of these cheap dresses can be fine or poor with sizing that runs accurate or 2-3 sizes too small. Many shoppers have good luck with brands on Amazon while others do not. I purchased one dress for my daughter and I am happy with it. My recommendation is to always choose brands with several 4 and 5 star reviews, their own size chart (usually a picture as well as in the description) and have PRIME shipping available.
The reason for Prime, even if you don’t have a prime account, is that it ensures the dress is already in an Amazon USA or UK warehouse. Shipping will be fast and all import taxes have already been paid. When you choose a dress that ships directly from overseas it could be weeks before you see it and very expensive to ship back for a return. You are also sending all your dollars to an overseas company rather than helping your local economy via import taxes, shipping & handling and warehousing costs built into the price of your dress. I won’t go as far as to say you should “only buy locally made” but I do encourage you to support brands that at least ship locally.
Etsy.com and Etsy.co.uk – Most vintage 50s dresses are expensive. You can, however, find some bargains on Etsy for genuine 50s vintage or 50s inspired from another decade (like the 80s.) Sometimes they have minor flaws like stains, holes and broken zippers. If you can fix them then you have yourself a genuine vintage 1950s dress for a song.
Coming out of the 1940s women were looking too high fashion designers and their Hollywood models for fashion inspiration. The 1950s vintage wedding dress was no different. Brides-to-be flocked to bridal salons inside department stores where they viewed the latest runway wedding gowns, veils, and flowers as well dedicated areas for menswear, housewares, and bridesmaid dresses. The whole day long event set the tone that weddings were a high fashion affair.
Brides were encouraged to dress like the Hollywood stars in the most expensive gown they could afford. Thanks to manufacturing improvements, wedding dresses were now being offered “off the rack” with cheaper synthetic materials that looked as expensive as the real thing. Every bride could afford a dream wedding in a dream wedding gown complete with accessories and live happily ever after… or so they say.
Early 1950s Wedding Gowns
The sweetheart neckline, small waist, and full skirt was the classic wedding gown silhouette for most of the 1950s. Early 50s fabrics embraced a structure that easily molded the torso and shaped the hips down to the floor. Ribbed silks and Duchesse satins were smooth and shiny. Lace was both a top only or full dress fabric infused with gold or silver thread. Handmade lace was very soft and expensive but new cotton or polyester-cotton machine-made lace was crisp and affordable. Lace was used heavily in 50s wedding attire from the gown to veils to gloves.
1952, modest long sleeve neck satin wedding down
Sheer Top Modest Wedding Dress
Full modesty in churches was required meaning sleeves were long with some fullness at the top, a tight fit down to the wrist and a medieval style cuff. Necklines favored the higher cuts of V, bateau, sweetheart and scalloped shapes. The skirt hung from the high waistline in an A-line shape, supported by one long petticoat underneath.
Elegant long sleeve full wedding gown
Mid 50s Wedding Dresses
Grace Kelly wears a skin tight long sleeve lace wedding gown for her church wedding to Prince Rainier. See it on display.
Mid 50s wedding gowns saw some practical changes in the area of reception gowns. Modesty was required in churches but brides wanted something modern and fashionable. Wedding dress designers solved this dilemma with removable layers. Most bridal gowns were now strapless but also had a matching bolero jacket with three-quarter length sleeves that were worn at the ceremony. Jackets could be solid silk or satin but more often were white lace, tightly fitted, as if it were a second skin. Another option was to have detachable sleeves that came off for the reception. It wasn’t entirely acceptable to wear a sleeveless gown to the ceremony until the 60s. Even short sleeve jackets were a controversial style but women wore them anyways.
In the mid 50s, a Tv show called Bride and Groom featured real couples who married in the studio’s faux chapel on national TV. They were given wedding rings, household gifts, a honeymoon, and a rental car to start their life together. Only a few episodes remain but they are priceless. Watch them here, here, here and here.
Late 1950s Wedding Dresses
Mid to late 50s dresses softened up the shape into the round ballgown and used chiffon and tulle to make them lighter as well. Hemlines rose up, up, and up to the tea length (ankle) or mid shin, exposing footwear for the first time since the ’20s. Audrey Hepburn wore a ballerina style wedding gown in Funny Face in 1957, dancing and twirling, and showing off how light and magical the calf length dress was. The bodice styles simplify too. Short sleeves were preferred. Plain, wide and round necklines without collars or halternecks gave the look some doll-like innocence.
Types of wedding dress necklines:
Wedding dress skirts of the 50s had little variety but the necklines embraced nearly every shape imaginable.
Bateau – cut straight across the collarbone in front and equally in the back with a one inch gap at the shoulders. See Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face (1957)
Fichu- A frilled fichu gathered into a point at the breasts. Sometimes a brooch or flower was placed at the point
Halter- Thick straps gather from the side of the breast up and around the back of the neck. The most acceptable of the sleeveless styles
Horseshoe- U shaped halter that loops under the bustline. A favorite style often called a shelf top today.
Jewel – Simple round neckline, perfect for showing off jewelry
Off the shoulder- A boat neckline that falls just slightly off the shoulder with short sleeves
Portrait – A collar that frames the neck and shoulders
Queen Anne – A high back and neck that curves down into a sweetheart front. Very regal.
Scoop neck- A wide and low U shaped neckline
Square neck- Straight sides and bust line, no cleavage
Strapless – A supported (boned) top with a straight bustline often paired with a bolero or crop jacket
Sweetheart – A center point between breast bowls out over the breasts and straight up the sides. A sheer lace, chiffon or net illusion panel may be added for modesty. It is universally flattering.
V- neck – Wide or narrow V opening from neck to bust or neck to low back. Sometimes with a peel out collar. Usually a narrow opening for modesty.
Famous 1950s Wedding Dresses
1954, Audrey Hepburn’s first wedding dress
Audrey Hepburn’s real wedding gown in 1954 had a full tea length skirt, high collar, small buttons down the center, billowing elbow length sleeves and a wide sash around her waist. It enveloped her tiny figure.
Gentlemen Prefer Blonds wedding dresses worn by Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell
In Gentlemen Prefer Blonds identical lace wedding dresses worn by Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. Notice how they were adapted to each model. Marilyn, being more petite, has a slimmer skirt and shorter hem.
1956 Grace Kelly sheer floral wedding dress is The Philadelphia Story
In 1956 Grace Kelly wore a unique wedding dress while playing Tray Samantha in High Society a musical remake of The Philadelphia Story. The dress was designed was Helen Rose, Ms. Kelly’s designer for her own wedding dress that same year.
Recently famous is the vintage 50s wedding dress worn in the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel TV series. There has been a lot of enthusiasm for this darling, simple, 50s tea length wedding dress with a sheer scoop neck top, short sleeves, satin bodice and tulle skirt. It is very ballerina-like which fits perfectly in this time period. It is also a very popular vintage wedding dress style right now. If you love it you can get one for yourself.
1950s style wedding dress similar to Mrs. Maisel’s gown
Modest 50s Weddings
1956 ladies tulle and lace ball evening gown or wedding gown?
Not all brides wanted or could afford a lavish wedding with a couture wedding gown. Many brides opted for a small church ceremony with a reception at home wearing her best afternoon dress or tailored suit. Many brides made new dresses for this occasion or had experienced family members help sew a wedding gown from a pattern and special order fabric. Other brides re-used old heirloom wedding dresses and refashioned them into newer 50s styles. Young brides may have re-worn a prom dress or borrowed one of the mother’s formal gowns. Ladies formal gowns were quite similar to wedding dresses. Some brides chose an ivory, pink or yellow lace wedding dress because they could wear it again to a fancy party or night out to dinner and dancing. They were practical and affordable choices for brides with a mind on their future, not just the wedding day.
1956 lace prom dresses that could easily be wedding dresses
Wedding Veils, Hats and Tiaras
The wedding tiara was still worn in the 50s but was quickly being replaced by small hats. Saucer shaped hats covered with beading and flowers were pulled down low on the forward creating a halo effect. There were also crescent shaped hats that saddled the head but left room for the latest bouffant hairstyles to shine.
Debbie Reynolds wore a crescent wedding hat with veil in 1955
When Queen Elizabeth was crowned in 1953 there was a brief revival of jeweled crowns to be worn instead of hats. Some brides like Audrey Hepburn wore a crown of roses instead.
1953 Modern bride showing off the latest trend for flower crowns for both brides and bridesmaids
Veils were the one item that was “old” usually being passed down from mothers and grandmothers. Long lace veils floating down the backs of wedding gowns added a classic touch to an otherwise modern wardrobe. Jackie Kenedy wore her grandmothers rosepoint lace veil attached to a small tiara of lace and orange blossoms. It contrasted nicely against her ivory silk taffeta ballgown (that she hated) with ruched bodice and off the shoulder neckline. Long veils were often “updated” with crowns of small flowers or draped over a plain pillbox hat.
Jackie Kennedy holding her wedding flowers and wearing her mother’s lace veil
In the late 1950s, those who did not wear an heirloom veil wore a shoulder length to waist length tulle veil that echoed the big ballgown skirt below. Attached to a hidden headband, small hat or comb, layers of the tulle or net fluffed out from the head mimicking the hairstyle or rather protecting the hair from the weight of a traditional long veil. Rock N Roll brides wore a bouffant veil with a single rose placed at the center of the head.
1920s men’s fashion for UK shoppers is plentiful thanks to popular mini-series Downton Abbey and Peaky Blinders. Let’s not forget about the Greats Gatsby movie either. All of these shows have made 1920s men’s clothing popular again. From Peaky’s iconic tweed suits to the posh tuxedos at Downton Abbey the range of style was vast.
Working class men wore second-hand clothing that mismatched: trousers, suspenders, vests, and caps. Middle-class men wore the best white club collar shirts and grey, blue or brown suits they could afford (slim in the early years and wide leg in the later years.) Upperclass men and rich Gangsters would fancy themselves in the latest fashions of striped, plaid or herringbone suits while in the city or tweed, plaid, and summer linen in the country. They wore wool hats like the Homburg, derby or fedora and straw boater hats in summer. Men’s shoe were snazzy brown and white oxfords or plain brown or black cap toe or wingtips for most outfits. Speaking of casual men’s 20s clothing the golfer’s outfit consisting of pullover vest, rolled sleeve shirt, plus fours and argyle socks is a 20s classic!
We have been helping men and women find 1920s style clothing online for over 10 years! While our audience has mostly been USA shoppers we have a growing population of British UK shoppers. We are constantly on the lookout for new 1920s vintage inspired clothing and 20s reproduction clothing sold in the UK. Here are many of our favorites at reasonable prices. For custom made 20s clothing look at this list. Use the 1920s menu at the top to find even more men’s clothes sold in the USA with international shipping.
We in the clothing biz speak often of “fashion decades”, but here’s a little secret: there’s no such thing. Sartorial eras are hardly parceled in ten-year periods — and the 1960s, maybe more than any other time, are proof enough of that! The decade that brought us the beats and the hippies, the mods and the peaceniks, was just as diverse in fashion as its social chaos might imply. In the 1960s, getting dressed, like doing pretty much anything else, was a tug-of-war between old and new. No one knew quite who she wanted to be, and the styles of the time reflect that. Prim-and-proper ‘50s dames shook hesitant hands with their groovier proto-’70s counterparts, and the results — well, intoxicating. Keep the best of the old and wed it to the new. 1960s outfits were a glorious mash of growing pains. Here’s how to harness the 60s glamour, from Betty and Joan to Twiggy and Jean, for the modern day.
1960s Outfit- Housewife / Mad Men
1960s Outfit- Early 60s housewife / Mad Men Betty Draper
Kicking off, of course, with that icon of icons: Betty Draper. The face of Mad Men style is a solid bastion of the Old Guard. While Joan and Peggy favored the beehives and sweater dresses of later ‘60s style, Betty’s look was a ‘50s throwback. Not without a ‘60s twist, of course — those headbands and button-ups were so chic it hurt. The 1960s housewife was more streamlined than her ‘50s counterpart. Dress shapes were simplifying, whittling slowly down to the sheaths the decade would make famous. Colors were lighter; hairdos were smoother. The neckline game, though, was strong as ever. Betty’s lapels on her shirtwaist dress were on point. Shop 1960s shirtwaist dresses, headbands, earrings, cardigan sweaters, and kitten heels.
1964 teal polka dot and peach swing dresses with headbands, gloves and heels
1964 yellow summer dress with gloves and white bow headband and a plaid shirtwaist dress with heels
My Mad Men, early 60s vintage coral swing dress
1960s Outfits- The Mods
Mod girls were Flappers 2.0, and it sure shows in their clothes! The 1940s and ‘50s emphasized a slim waist and a tailored bodice; the ‘60s shook things up. High waists, low waists, no waists — all fair game and then some. The empire-waist peasant dress (we’ll get to that) is perhaps best associated with the decade, but it’s the sweater dress that’s truly classic. Streamlined, swingy, and above all, short, these knitted dresses have never really gone out of style. ‘60s girls accessorized the rather plain silhouette with downright fabulous collars and sleeves. Most skirts and dresses were paired with matching tights or tall socks, low heel shoes and sometimes a cloche hat (just like the ’20s!). And, of course, a swing coat atop it all. Shop 1960s mod dresses, tights/socks, hats and shoes.
1968 striped doll dress and yellow drop waist mod dress, matching tights, and with bow tie shoes
1960s fall skirts, suit and dress with tights and mary jane flats
Those classic ‘60s skirt sets — half Jackie O style, half gal-about-town, all dangerously darling. The silhouette was boxy, a departure from Dior’s more tailored New Look, but its clean lines and impeccable matching made it all woman! This look is a fun one — it’s a perfect example of the 1960s “transition” stage. The sheath dress with bow and cropped jacket maintain the class, but the booties and opaque tights keep things just mod enough. The scarf and pearl earrings, of course, are mainstays. Check out the collar, too — Peter Pan collars were huge in the ‘60s, and they’re fortunately back in style!
1964 transition dress with gloves, heels, and purses
1964 Navy nautical outfits with hats, heels, gloves and bags
Sew a 60s outfit- Jackie O style
Jackie O – so classy! Bow dress, pearls, gloves, clutch bag
60s White jacket dress with pink head wrap and gloves
Mid 60s teal dresses and suits
My Jackie O style outfit with shift dress and crop jacket
The latter half of the decade? Let’s call it “‘70s lite”. The bohemian look was decidedly In, but the silhouette still borrowed from the mods. Before there were granny gowns, there were the cutest little peasant dresses — Swinging London’s answer to Woodstock. Anything goes when it comes to these prints: tribal, psychedelic, folk whatever your sartorial sense desires. Not to mention some absolutely groovy sleeves! Adding plastic boots makes for an interesting mix of modernity and woodsy nostalgia; a floppy hat is, of course, quintessential.
1960s shift dress in colorful flowers
1967 Simple boho dresses
1967 boho mini dresses, tights, flats
1967 bell bottoms, crop tops, shift dresses in 60s mod prints, sandals,
“Folk” pattern hippie dresses, bead necklaces, daisies in the hair or a headband
1960s hippie outfits- short boho dresses
1960s Outfits – Casual Pants
It ain’t Great-Granny’s fashion show — ladies wear pants now! Cigarette pants, to be precise, which are much more pleasant than they sound. Pair that with the decade’s madness for plaid, and you’ve got quite a look. Capes and berets borrow a more rugged aesthetic, and the blouse brings it all together. Peggy wears them well, don’t you think? Shop 1960s pants and tops.
1961 capri pants and shorts with sleeveless tops, in the 50s style. Worn with white sport flats
While scanning some of my 60s catalogs I ran across a reoccurring theme; matching couples. I dug back a little deeper and found this trend picking up around 1958 and lasting through 1965. Searching the web I found some more pictures of couples in matching sweaters from the 1940s and some wild print polyester outfits from the 1970s too. As it turns out dressing up in vintage matching couples outfits has been around for quite some time and as you can see at the end, continues today.
Here are some images from my catalogs and vintage photo collection. It is perfect timing for Valentine’s day this week. Don’t you agree?
Matching Couples Sweaters
His and hers sweaters (jumpers) were an easy handmade gift for loving couples. Wintery nordic prints were popular in the late 40s to mid 50s. Both men and women wore them and sometimes they matched.
1940s kissing couple in matching deer sweaters
1950s matching ski sweaters and pants
1955 more matching deer sweaters. I love the exchange of black and white
Early 60s color coordinated bobble sweaters
1964 matching argyle fuzzy cardigan sweaters
Matching Couples Western Shirts
I believe the mid-century trend for matching clothes started with westernwear. Perhaps it was the coordinated rodeo stars from the 30s that inspired this trend or maybe it was the explosion of square dancing competitions that took place in the 40s and 50s. Either way, my catalogs had several couples in matching western shirts.
1959 Matching Western Shirts in white or plaid
1961 Matching western shirts. Texas-big comfort” says the ad.
Matching Couples Clothes
Adapting the western shirt theme but for mainstream fashion happened in the late 1950s. Most matching outfits were “man-tailored” button up shirts for the ladies and casual shirts for men. Plaid was the winning pattern with bright solid colors and next best thing. Other clothes followed such as dresses, skirts, jackets and even pants in the 70s.
1959 Matching polo shirts
1960 matching plaid shirts
1964 matching shirts and jackets for “Fashion Twins”
1964 matching plaid shirts and her skirt denim is lined too
1964 matching swing dress and men’s shirt
1970s matching western shirts
1959 Matching hats
1970s matching outfits with polos hirts and striped pants
Matching Vintage Inspired Outfits
My husband and I always try to coordinate our outfits and sometimes that means matching the kids with us but we have yet to completely match our own outfits. Hmmm I need to change this soon.
I asked some of the ladies on the Facebook Pinup Talk if they had any inspiration for me and they certainly did! From simply coordinating colors to making shirts and dresses from the same fabric, these outfits are adorable.
1950s hats were still worn daily by most women, however, the trend to go hatless was on the rise especially among the youth who were not advised to wear hats until past the 20 year mark. 1950s hats could be small or large with a low crown and were held on the head using elastic linings, combs and clips. They were made from straw, wool felt, velvet, lace or satin was often decorated with a single feather, a cluster of beads, ribbon, small flowers and nylon netting for veils. They were worn in a variety of colors to match every outfit’s accessories. 1950s hairstyles supported the changing shapes of hats or, more accurately, it was the 50s hat that adapted to hairstyle trends.
Early 1950s Hats
1952 small hats
In the 1940s, hats were the featured accessory. Women’s hats served a purpose, to add variety to her wardrobe, to keep spirits up during the war, and to cover unwashed hair. Now as the New Look was established in fashion as a more dressed up and lady-like aesthetic so were the hats. All accessories, gloves, bag, shoes, and hats competed for attention but ultimately worked together in unifying the look. Hats were small and dainty, exposing freshly styled hair, and framing the face now heavily painted in makeup. They were made of stiff fabrics and supported by wire and starched materials to maintain the clean lines and ridge shape required of the New Look.
Shell-shaped caps were the most popular style of the early 50s in America. They sat straight on top the head and were worn with a sleek hairstyle such as long hair pulled back into a chignon. Common styles were the mushroom brim, round coolie brim, round cloche, and breton or half bretron. Bever felt began to be used in 1952 and it offered hats with a brushed fur texture, sometimes called “Teddy bear cloth.” Other fuzzy, tweedy, and tightly woven straws added texture to otherwise plain, simple, small hats. Some designrsd experimented with natural materials such as hats made from tree bark, wood chips, willlow, cork and wheat strands. The rule was to wear a textured hat with a smooth dress and a smooth hat with a textured dress.
Summer straw hats made of real straw or new synthetics like cellophane and crinoline were braided into textured caps, sun hats and bonnets. Natural straw imported from Switzerland, Italy and the far east lent an exotic seaside or folksy feel to summer clothing. The new synthetic straws allowed new pastel colors to coordinate with summer dresses and create even lighter small hats.
1953 Bonnet and Helmet textured hats
Matching polka dot hat and scarf set
Feathers were still used in hats in the early 50s despite that Wild Bird plumage was outlawed in New York in 1950. Designers looked at other synthetic materials to trim hats: mirrors, fringe, braid, glass, jet, rhinestones, beads and pearls. Hats often coordinated with other accessories such as a velvet turban with a velvet evening shawl or a silk hat with long silk gloves. For daywear, hats usually coordinated in color and material with shoes, handbags, gloves, belts and jewelry. At least one accessory needed to match the hat.
1953 Feather hats
In 1954, Juliette caps and berets covered more of the head crown and sat slightly further back exposing the new trend for short “Italian” hairstyles. Think Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina. Veils, in a variety of colors and metallics, hang down just a little from that crown. Besides classic black, there were orange, red and green hats. Veils were not meant to cover the eyes but call attention to them.Some Juliette hats were made entirely of veiling net. One writer encouraged women to match veils to eyeshadow.
1955 Juliette caps frame the crown but leave the short hairstyles exposed
A variety of new or revived old hat shapes compliment the classic and stylish fashion of the 50s. Hats like a bicorne-bonnet, tricorne-cloche, sailor-coolie, and helmet-toque merged two looks into one. Even the 1920s cloche had a revival by Dior in 1953 although it hardly resembled the Art Deco era hat. The cloche crown was deeper and the overall dimension narrower so that is sat on top of the hair, adding height, instead of covering it up like a helmet.
1952 flower cap hats
1958 garden hats
Hats covered with flowers, worn in winter, were a brief trend inspired by the coronation of Queen Elizabeth the 2nd in 1954. From here on out many hats in spring and summer featured flowers, large and small. Flower caps placed small flowers all over the hat while garden hats placed flowers around the brim. When it came to flowers it was an all or nothing experience. They were the focal point of the hat.
1953 tall feather hats
Mid to Late 50s Hats
1950s tea hats and dresses
In 1956, the musical, My Fair Lady, created a revival of Edwardian era hats ( aka Titanic era.) Hats grew bigger and more dramatic with lots of large ribbons and flowers. Exotic silk turbans fancier up evening occasions. Wide brim sun hats with piles of flowers revival the garden party in Spring. The milliner’s challenge was to make large but light hats so as not to compress hair. Rough straw, organdy, net, tulle and silk were gathered, ruched, layered and stitched to add bulk without weight.
In winter a large toque, fur beret or feather wide brim hat brought drama indoors. Bulky hats that needed support were made possible by the French Twist hairstyle. Winter hats also favored unique furs such as leopard, mink, white fox or otter. Cheaper options were angora hair, velvet, and shaggy velour.
Also in 1956 hats turned tropical, perhaps in Anticipation of Hawaii’s statehood in 1959. Large straw sun hats or tall bucket straws matched straw beach bags and espadrille sandals.
By 1958, the bouffant hairstyle with full bangs, rolls and curls was in style. When hats were worn they were small draped satin toques or feathered helmets that mimicked the bouffant hair. Hair was in, hats were out and hat sales dropped 37% that year. Ouch.
1957 Bouffant hats
1959, Cloche, flower pot, bucket, hats and caps in winter fuzzy textures
That wasn’t the end of hats, quite yet. Hats went unchanged between 1957 and 1595 with only the addition of printed material hats. Flowers were printed on felt, cotton, and even straw adding some charm to ladies spring hats. The floppy brim hat extended out past the forehead partially adding sun protection.
Many women must have had bad haircuts in the later 50s because milliners made close fitting skull cap hats that covered up the entire head. They were covered in feathers, fur, flowers or manipulated fabrics. The result was “Wig-toques” hats that looked like wigs of hair but made of unusual materials. The wig shape could be full like the bouffant or flat like a pixie cut. It was dramatic for the “in” fashion elite but made little effect on the everyday woman. The look wasn’t terribly inventive. Similar hats were seen around 1952 but never took off.
1957 Feather Caps, close fitting hats
1959 winter Cloche hats
By 1959 the bouffant hair supported tall hats such as the upside-down flower pot, lampshade or bucket choche. The round edge framed the hair and face but never came down over the forehead like 20s cloches did. They came in a rainbow of ice cream colors and fuzzy winter textures adding new life to the fading fashion accessory.
The last millinary invention of the 50s and the only style that did not crush the bouffant were beaucoiffs or whimsies. It was a simple headband with an attached small veil, cluster of flowers, ribbon bow or feather band. It generally slipped on the head and added a little decoration without the fullness and stigma of an old ladies hat. They made up of 25% of all hats sales in the last two years.
The other non-hat hat was the chignon cap that covered the bun of women’s long hair around 1957. A pillbox shaped scarf, a flower-covered bob, and faux braided hair were just a few of these creative styles. It was a fad and it didn’t last too long but I think that are classy!
1957 Chignon caps
Young women, lower “working” classes, and fashion forward dressers avoided wearing hats except to church or perhaps out shopping where they may have received better service. A woman who wore hats was thought to be of mature years, had wealth, lived in the city or was in an executive business position. Hatted women were treated better than casual hatless girls. The youth didn’t wear hats and casual middle-class women followed the trend. It would be only a few more years before hats disappeared from women’s heads entirely and a few more after that until they returned as a fashionable accessory for the youth driven generation of the 60s.
1950s Hat Styles
Here is a brief overview of common 1950s hat styles. Keep in mind each designer, retailer, region and individual women had different names of similar hats. For example, one of my 50s catalogs labeld a mushroom hat as a pillbox hat which was called a bumper in another catalog. There were so many styles of hats the names couldn’t keep it straight!
One quick note on 1950s fascinator hats. The term fascinator was first used many centuries ago to describe a knit hat. It returned in the 1990s to describe small, perched, often veiled, cocktail hats. Since most hats in the 1950s were small and perched the fascinator is a fair name.
Plates, Platters, Saucers, Mushroom Hats
1950s Mushroom Hats, 1957
The one hat style to dominated the 1950s was the flat hat. A round circular, thin, hat that came in a variety of names from the kitchen. Plate, platter or tambourine hats were completely flat, saucer hats had a slight downturned edge, and mushroom hats had a deep downturn brim all around. The early years favored small plate hats that circled the head like a halo. Later years saw the hats grow wide for a bigger framing of the face. Trim could be minimal or fussy with rows of lace ruffles, pleated gathers, fuzzy fur or layers of small feathers. If the hat was plain, a pretty brooch could be clipped to the brim of a mushroom hat.
1950s Plate and Mushroom Hats
1957 hats for mature women
One unique hat was the flying saucer. Flying saucer hats, also called coolie hats, were shaped like, well, flying saucers. They were wide at the bottom and came to a rounded point at the top. Many had long thin veils. They were fairly flat – the slope of the sides wasn’t steep, and the brims were wide – they could even be a foot or two in diameter- but most were small enough to create the halo effect.
1950s Coolie Hats, Flying Saucers
1950s Cloche Hats
Audrey Hepburn looked fabulous in all hats from pillbox to sun hats but it was her Tiffany cloche that fit her gamine look to perfection. The Tiffany cloche featured a “slightly rounded brim, which encased her face down to the eyebrows. ” (Century of Hats) The 1950s cloche is more or less a bucket hat or upside down flower pot with an angled brim. Smooth felt or texture furs and velvets added dimension while the trim was minimal. A simple narrow ribbon band with a brooch, pin, jewel or flat bow to one side. Some early cloches had short brims and rounded crowns while the later styles had angular crowns and flat tops.
One unusual cloche hat was the lampshade hat. It had corrugated sides, no brim, and an open crown. A homemade version took an old record and melted it into a bowl to create the folds. Any women who dared to wear it faced many stares and snide remarks. It was utterly ridiculous.
1950s Cloche Hats
1950s Pillbox Hats
1957 Jean Patou red suit and a pillbox hat
Pillbox hats continued to be a popular small hat style from the 1940s. They were circular shaped and a few inches tall, with straight sides and a flat or slightly rounded top that covered just the peak of the crown of the head or perched flat on top. As the decade moved on the depth of the crown grew to 4 or 5 inches tall. The popularity of the pillbox hat also grew, becoming one of the few 50s hats to survive into the 1960s. Jackie Kennedy was wearing a pink pillbox hat the day Jack Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.
Pillbox hats looked especially polished with a tailored suit. The clean, undecorated shape, mimicked that of the simple lines of the suit. Some pill box hats had..
Black Bakelite & Diamanté Art Deco Dangle Earrings at TruFauxJewels
A symbol of the glamour and luxury that prevailed in the 1920s, Art Deco is the decorative style that reached its peak between the two world wars. Characterized by geometric shapes, bold colors, and stylized exotic motifs, it influenced every form of design: architecture, the decorative arts, the fine arts, film, photography, and fashion. And, of course, Art Deco jewelry.
The name Art Deco, coined in the 1960s, was derived from the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris in 1925. This international world’s fair, originally scheduled for 1914 but postponed because of World War I, was intended as a showcase for the new modern style in the decorative and applied arts.
Because style is a reaction to/reflection of time and place, let’s look at the influences on the Art Deco style and their effects on fashion and jewelry in the 1920s.
Art Deco Jewelry Influences
By the first decade of the 20th century, artists were rejecting the intricate curvilinear patterns of sinuous asymmetrical lines in muted colors that characterized Art Nouveau. Its motifs included flowers, insects, and profiles of women. Think of Tiffany glass, Alphonse Mucha paintings, and the Eiffel Tower, as examples.
Avant-garde art movements, such as Cubism (a school of abstract art pioneered by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque), were emerging throughout Europe. In 1907, Picasso painted Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, a portrait of five women. It abandoned perspective in favor of a flat, two-dimensional plane and incorporated African mask-like features on two of the faces.
Starting in 1909, Léon Bakst incorporated the avant-garde with Oriental and primitive motifs in the exotic and vibrantly-colored stage sets and costumes he designed for the Ballets Russes. Sergei Diaghilev’s production of Schéhérazade took Paris audiences by storm the following year.
The bold color combinations and profuse patterns not only dazzled audiences dressed in the pale, delicate, and lacy fashion of the Edwardian era – “le style ballets russes” captured the imagination of Parisian couturiers and interior designers. This color plate of a Bakst illustration was published by the Metropolitan Ballet Company (New York) in a 1916 souvenir program to promote the Russian Ballet’s American tour that year.
The influence of Oriental, Middle Eastern, and Egyptian art on design was augmented by Howard Carter’s discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922. It launched a fascination with all things Egyptian (known as Egyptomania). Motifs such as scarabs, pharaohs, lotus blossoms, and pyramids, as well as colors – turquoise and lapis – made their way into all areas of the arts. Art Deco jewelry was no exception.
1920s Fashion: The Flapper
1922 Saturday Evening Post: The Flapper
Although La Garçonne, the fashion silhouette associated with this period, began in 1922, it didn’t really become widespread until the middle of the decade. Taken from the title of the 1922 French novel by Victor Margueritte, the name translates to The Bachelor Girl or The Flapper. Here is an artist’s depiction from the cover of the February 4, 1922 issue of The Saturday Evening Post.
This tubular, androgynous look featured dresses in bright colors and bold patterns, dropped or invisible waistlines, and hemlines that rose from ankle-length in 1924 to knee-length by the following year; hemlines remained there until the end of the decade.
The fashionable silhouette emphasized the slim, youthful body: square shoulders, flattened chest, narrow hips, and long legs. Women whose figures didn’t conform to the look relied on corsets to achieve the desired effect. A 1923 ad in Vogue stated: “‘Being slim may be a matter of pounds, but looking slim is a matter of where those pounds are placed.’ Gossard Corsets and Brassieres offer an easy way to keep the figure youthful”.
The flapper embodied the free spirit of the 1920s. Because she wore her hair short, a new style of hat – the French cloche – came into fashion. It fit tightly to the head and flared around the face. The brim was either turned up or angled down toward the face.
1924 Vogue fashion – daytime dresses
1925 Vogue Flapper Fashion
The ad from Bonwit Teller (a high-end clothing store) shown above is from the August 15, 1924 issue of Vogue. With the caption “Misses’ Advance Fall Silk Frocks” are three daytime dresses of that mode. The “coat-frock” on the left is made of “ottoman silk faille in black, navy blue or tile red, with contrasting jabot and pipings”; the middle, a “replica of a Patou frock … in black crepe-back satin, with ribbon tie and tassel in contrasting colors”; and the one on the right, “in Mongole crepe silk trimmed with ciré braid [in] black, brown or navy blue”.
Illustration on the right, the “Lace Evening Gowns” advertised by Bonwit Teller in the April 15, 1925 issue of Vogue are replicas of Chanel models. The one with ruffled tiers was made in black, blush pink, absinthe green, and cocoa; the other was available in black over black or pineapple over blush.
Both ads reflect the practice of French couturiers who sold their designs to select American retailers for reproduction.
In previous decades, women, other than the wealthiest, had a few good pieces, such as a strand of pearls, that they wore on special occasions. Now women in every income level were choosing jeweled accessories for each ensemble in the same way they chose shoes, handbags, and hats. By the 1920s, costume jewelry had come into its own as a desirable – even necessary – accessory. A 1922 article in Women’s Wear Daily reported:
“More and more importance is being given to costume jewelry each day, and department stores and avenue shops feature it in their windows and store cases in a lavish manner. These small articles that are depended on so very much of late for dress decoration are now considered important enough to be given entire windows for their display, and with the advent of the latest novelties from Paris, the avenue shops especially have been featuring all this class of merchandise.”
1920-1921 Diamond Jewelry sold By Eatons Department Store
White metal (pot metal, silver, nickel, or chrome) or brass, clear crystal stones and beads (to imitate rock crystal), and richly-colored glass stones and beads (to imitate precious gemstones) were important components in most jewelry produced in this decade. Shimmering stones (pastes and marcasites) were used alone or to accent or contrast the others. Early plastics – Bakelite, Galalith, Celluloid – allowed designers to experiment and achieve styles that didn’t imitate precious jewelry and also produce an almost limitless range of colors.
To complement the elongated look of mid-1920s dresses and the dance craze, dangling, dazzling Art Deco jewelry that moved with the body and called attention to the wearer was key. Long strands of beads and faux pearls were worn in the usual way, draped down the back of an evening dress or across bare shoulders, or wound around the wrist to look like multiple bracelets. Other fashionable necklace styles included chokers, lariats, sautoirs (long strands of beads or pearls, ending in a tassel), and fringe necklaces. Here are some examples, which were all made in the 1920s (these are for sale in the TruFauxJewels shop).
With shorter hair in style, women’s ears required adornment. A September 15, 1921 Vogue article reported: “Pendant earrings are returning to fashion … Frenchwomen and Englishwomen have both adopted, or rather re-adopted, these ornaments”. Here are some examples of 1920s Art Deco earrings.
Another type of essential 1920s jewel was the brooch, which decorated cloche hats and jacket lapels. Brooches were also worn on shoulders, applied to belts, and placed at the hip. Here are some examples of Art Deco brooches made in the 1920s.
Bracelets were an important accessory, especially for outfits with bare arms. Styles included flexible bracelets (today known as line or tennis bracelets) set with clear and colored glass stones, pierced (or filigree) bracelets, and bangles. An August 23, 1922 article in Women’s Wear Daily reported that women in Paris were wearing clusters of bracelets: “Word comes from Paris that the smart women there are wearing as many as 19 bracelets on one arm. These are all of the very thin type, however, and when the wider bands are used it is seldom that more than two are worn on the same arm.” Here are some examples of 1920s Art Deco bracelets.
The End of the Roar
The flapper, luxury, and good times that characterized the Roaring ‘20s came to a sudden end on October 29, 1929, when the stock market crashed in the U.S. It launched the Great Depression that spread around the world. But that’s another story.
For more 1920s Art Deco jewelry: necklaces, bracelets, earrings and brooches browse the jewelry at TruFauxJewels
Barbara Schwartz is a costume jewelry expert and founder of TruFaux Jewels, an online boutique of beautiful and unusual pieces made in Europe and North America in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. Through her blog, social media, and private coaching sessions, Barbara helps women create their unique, personal styles by accessorizing contemporary fashion with vintage costume jewelry. A respected jewelry historian, she has lectured on fashion and jewelry history for the Association of Image Consultants International, at two conventions of Costume Jewelry Collectors International (CJCI), and as part of the Jewelry History Series at The Original Miami Antique Show. Her articles have been published on the CICI website, on the Kovels website, and in ADORNMENT: The Magazine of Jewelry & Related Arts.
The year of 1938 was a transition year between the Great Depression and the coming World War 2. In fashion, life was looking cheerful with richer colors, slightly bigger floral prints, smaller hats and charming footwear. Hemlines were rising from ankle high in the early 30s toward knee length of the 1940s. Skirts were no longer only bias cut but now were A-line, pleated, or flared. Just as skirts loosed up so did shoulders into the iconic puff sleeve. Shoulder pads were also introduced to add more drama up top and the illusion of a slimmer natural waistline. Shop 1930s style dresses.
Women’s 1938 coats were equally as colorful as dresses and not just in spring. Winter coats came in bright hues of blue, green, burgundy and yellow. Some had large fur collars while most featured wide lapels that could be folded up around the neck. Hemlines covered most of the leg but left enough of a view of her fabulous shoes! Shop 1930s style coats.
1930s shoes are some of my favorites. Heels were modest with full coverage of the vamp yet having a sturdy yet slim high heel. Comfort shoes came in the form of the walking oxford which had a lower heel but never flat. Oxfords and heels had cutouts, thick straps, big buckles and perforations (small holes) which gave them variety and breathability in summer. Warmer weather saw the white summer shoe and sandal dominate fashion. Brightly colored sandals were popular beach shoes. Shop 1930s style shoes.
Women never left the house without a hat and coordinating gloves and purse. 1938 hats were had low round crowns, wide brims that often folded into irregular shapes. Trim was minimal: a small band, a single flower, a crisp feather. Straw in summer, felt in winter.
1930s Casual Clothes
While most women’s clothing involved wearing dresses, there were casual clothes for the lesiure time too. Wide leg pants and a knit shirt were comfortable for just about any activity. In summer, a playsuit (dress over shorts) was a bit cooler. For something simple, a short sleeve blouse over a skirt said casual without dressing to “young.”