The Beyond Retro Guide to 1950s Vintage Dresses

Why are we still so in love with vintage dresses?!
Dresses through past decades have inspired us and empowered us.  Their power to turn heads never fails us. From the bum freezing lengths of the 60s to the sparkling floor sweepers of the 70s these dresses captured the moods of their time perfectly.

Yet we can still wear them in a modern way and mix the styles of the past with newer items to keep their magic alive.  If history has taught us anything it’s that fashion is a never ending cycle.  So here is our first of our favourite decades, the 1950s, and why their iconic dresses have etched themselves indelibly on our consciousness.

Beyond Retro Vintage 1950s Dress Guide Pattern

Dresses styles of the 1950s 
The 50s offered a world free of the pressures of war and with the end of clothes rationing came the opportunity to create new and exciting silhouettes.  
- Tight, high waists were reinvented and hems dropped well below the knee into voluminous, free flowing dresses. 

Beyond Retro 1950s Dress Guide

- Bright playful hard wearing cotton prints added a new joy to day dresses that flattered all sizes. Lancashire’s Horrockses print mills designed some of the most desirable fabrics around.
Wiggle dresses poured round 50s shapes to create a silhouette that appeared moulded to feminine curves.
- Endless layers of soft tulle created wonderful spaghetti strapped and strapless prom dresses in delicious pastel colours. Perfect for being swept around the floor at ever more popular formal dances.

Beyond Retro 1950s Vintage Dress Guide Wiggle Dresses
5 dress icons of the 1950s

Queen of the halterneck, Marilyn personified the power of a full skirt when she dropped a billion jaws in her infamous street vent scene in The 7 Year Itch.
Beyond Retro 1950s Dress Guide Marilyn Monroe
Jayne Mansfield.
Wiggling into the silver screen for the first time in 1957, Jayne Mansfield set hearts racing in the Little Richard scored The Girl Can’t Help It. Here’s one example of her ability to master every style of 50s dresses.
Beyond Retro Vintage 1950s Dress Guide Jayne Mansfield

‘The New Look’. The shape that kickstarted a literal revolution. Britons took to the papers to complain about the flagrant use of fabrics when they were still observing clothes rationing. It mattered little. Richard Avedon’s images of these groundbreaking hourglass figures instantly inspired desire and envy into every woman who saw them. They still do.

Beyond Retro 1950s Vintage Dress Guide Dior New Look

Sophia loren
This Italian beauty knew how to carry the strappy 50s dress style with unrivalled grace. We also love this picture of her hirsute underarms and powerful sexuality. Strong and unapologetic.
Beyond Retro 1950s Vintage Dress Guide Sophia Loren
Billie Holiday
One of the most talented LGBTQ+ women of colour, Billie looked amazing always. Her formal, promlike dresses and her worldwide visibility inspired a whole generation of black youth.
Beyond Retro 1950s Vintage Dress Guide Billie Holiday
How to wear 1950s style now.
- Light and airy 50s wrapover and halter style dresses are a perfect choice for hot summer months.
- Team them with comfy sandals for the park or a pair of DMs to add a punch.
- Add a washed out denim jacket to those prom fancies like Agyness Dean
- Lily Allen is always there to remind us that 50’s dress confections still look cute with a pair of box fresh Nike Air Max.