Europe was still recovering from the war on it’s shores whereas America enjoyed a post war boom as the ’50’s began. With increasing disposable income came confidence and ostentatiousness. Cars had huge fins, chrome and over 4,000 drive in movie sites across the country accommodated young people and were termed “passion pits” by older adults. This was the decade that saw the start of the space race, Rock ’n’ Roll and Marilyn Monroe.
Naturally fashion followed in this brave new world. Increased wealth brought increased choice and the combined work and leisure outfit soon became a daytime dress and evening dress. The swing skirt was the ‘go to style’ for teenage college girls, whilst the evening gown found favour with the older affluent woman. The pencil skirt also came to the fore as the slim waist of the 40’s continued into the ’50’s.
By the middle of the decade the European woman had adopted the ‘new look’, which was deemed the ‘T-shirt dress.’. This style was contrary to the svelte waist allowing for an unfitted suit or dress. Characterised by a flared bodice and high waist the dress created a loose fitting from bodice to the knee. Underneath dietary control was being aided by the corselet to maintain a smooth figure. The ‘cathedral bra’ as it was known created arches over the breast with the use of bones and the conical shape under a tight fitting sweater become an icon of the times.
For the first time teenagers, as they were now known, had their own distinct fashion sense. Up until the advent of the new music of Rock ‘n’ Roll young people were dressed as a mini version of their parents. Now genres of style erupted aligned to music culture, seeing Teddy Boys, Rockers and Greasers vying for dominance on the streets of Britain. In America the music also spawned fashion styles as teenagers followed their heroes such as Elvis Presley. But in the US allegiance to the collegiate culture remained strong with boys donning varsity jackets and girls Prom dresses.
This youth culture and its affects on fashion would grow in the following decade, the 1960’s.