Fashion in the 1950s

Fashion trends in the 1950s

During the Second World War, clothing and fabric were rationed. Conservation and practicality were the most important factors for fashion designers, who had to use as little material as possible. Skirts were shorter and clothes in general were more fitted, with fewer gathers or pleats.


After the hardships of the war, however, women wanted to be glamorous and sophisticated again and popular fashions reflected this. With more fabric available after the end of rationing, women started wearing long full length skirts and more colourful patterned materials. 

Among young men there was a fashion for dressing smartly in suits, in the style of Edwardian gentlemen.


Key Styles of the 1950s...

Pupils from St Bart's School in Leeds were asked to investigate 1950s fashion by looking though old photographs, 1950s fashion magazines such as  Home Notes and watching the 'Fashion Show' film footage. They decided that some of the 'key' fashion items of the 1950s were:

For women:

  • The poodle skirt- a wide swing skirt with a felt poodle appliqué - perfect for dancing to rock and roll!
  • The sweater twin set
  • Pencil skirt- long skirts that came bellow the knee and were very tight to your legs.
  • Pedal pushers - fitted leggings 

For men:

  • Black leather jacket - with the collar turned up
  • Black or white t-shirt with rolled up sleeves 
  • The 'Teddy Boy' look- long jackets with narrow lapels and drainpipe trousers

The children then designed an outfit for a lady from the 1950s using scrap materials and fabrics. Some of their work can be seen in the pictures above.


Appliqué - sewing smaller pieces of cloth on to larger pieces as decoration

Conservation - using resources carefully to protect them or prevent waste

Drainpipe trousers - tight trousers thought to look like drainpipes, fashionable in the 1950s 

Gathers (in fabric) - fabric pulled into folds along a line of stitching

Pleats - vertical folds in cloth sewn in position

'Teddy boy' - nickname for men who wore smart, Edwardian style clothes in the 1950s

View other My Learning resources on life in the 1950s  or see the teachers' notes page

Scroll down for a list of links and resources on this topic.

Document icon Learning article provided by: Armley Mills Museum, Leeds Museums and Galleries | 
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