The uniqueness of the 1950s, so different from the 30s or 40s, deserves the attention we give it today. I look back at it as the “can do” decade. Americans rushed into the future with unbridled enthusiasm.
When the calendar flipped to 1950, World War II had been over for five years, and the great fashion march that defined the new decade was in full swing. It had begun back in 1947 when the House of Dior collection wowed the world during the first heady years of peacetime. The rationing and austerity of the 1940s, when women wore serviceable gabardines and other utilitarian fabrics joined other relics of the past.
The pent up need for consumer goods that developed during wartime rationing released a flood of consumers searching for much needed products–everything from new homes to new toasters to new hats.The economy started to boom. Increased family income gave women the opportunity to choose more extravagant materials for their clothing. Yards of fabric were used to create the long wide flaring skirts that draped to the calf or reached to the floor. Synthetics like nylon, Dacron, and orlon made their debut on the fashion scene.
Big name designers like Christian Dior and Cristobal Balenciaga directed the whole enthusiastic rush toward the dynamic bouncy numbers worn by the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Doris Day. Both the stars and the woman on the street wore those longer fuller skirts, pointed bust lines, narrow waists and soft rounded shoulder contours.