Following the end of World War II, the 1950s kicked off with a feeling of optimism and euphoria, which was also reflected in the fashion industry. After years of hardship, drudgery and utilitarian work garments, women were ready to dress up in luxurious and feminine clothes again. Since the launch of Dior’s New Look in 1947, his designs dominated the 50s, oozing confidence and prosperity. But times had changed and not everyone was thrilled. The war had also been a time of liberation and equality for many young women, who were freed from domesticity and worked as land girls, driving ambulances or in munitions factories. The idea of fashion reverting to a romantic and restrictive notion of femininity was something many were not prepared for.
The 1950s are marked by two contrasting silhouettes - despite a number of alternative shapes flourishing briefly before disappearing - the great full skirt and the slim pencil skirt. This is also evidenced in the sewing patterns of the time, which usually offered two skirt variations per design. The quintessential silhouette pioneered by Dior was all about the waspish waist and full skirts were worn with crinolines/petticoats for an exaggerated shape.
Other iconic designs included oversized detailing, the full swing coat, twinsets, fitted jackets with peplums and slim pencil skirt suits.
Shirtdresses, or shirtwaist dresses, were also made fashionable by Dior's New Look couture designs in the 1950s. They often featured a notched collar, and elbow-length sleeves with cuffs. Less formal versions of the shirtdress, made of cotton, became a staple part of many women's wardrobes during the 1950s.
In fact, other designers were embracing a more relaxed attitude to cater for emerging lifestyle changes requiring less formal clothing and freedom of movement.
Personally, I have a bit of a thing for 1950s blouse patterns! I find them so elegant and I adore the interesting details like pintucks, scalloped yokes, collars and the like. What's your favourite element of 1950s patterns?
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