My Newest Obsession: 1950s Fashion

Dovima in red velvet for Balenciaga - 1950s magazine spread
Dovima in red velvet for Balenciaga – 1950s magazine spread

While this blog generally has a paranormal theme, I find that it’s been a while since I had a project involving vampires or magic or any of the other things that go bump in the night.

Okay, well, there’s some bumping in the night, but it’s the kind brought on by a much more ordinary magic.

My most recent WIP is set in the 1950s, and that era has me under it’s spell, particularly the fashion. The designers! Givenchy! Dior! The models! Dovima! Suzy Parker! I’ve dedicated a whole Pinterest board to my obsession – jump HERE to check it out – so I thought I’d share a few images with you so you can fall in love too. And, because we all just survived Valentines Day, I tried to choose images that were seasonally appropriate.

1950s party dress - designer unknown
1950s party dress – designer unknown

A couple of trends helped shape 1950s fashion. One of the most important was the end of World War II. Women had been working outside the home and material goods had been strictly rationed during the war. When it was over, you see women wearing yards of fabric cut to conform to an identifiable – and artificial – female shape.

This was in part influenced by Dior’s New Look, a fashion phenomena dating from 1947. The look was softly structured, with sloping shoulders, a narrow waist, and a full, romantic skirt. Here’s a snippet from the Dior website, describing Christian Dior’s motivation…

…in designing “flower women, soft shoulders, blossoming bosoms, waists as slender as creepers and skirts as wide as corollas” (he) only wanted to make them happy. Which he succeeded in doing.

Dior’s New Look gown, 1954

Mamie Eisenhower was a huge proponent of the New Look, and while she did a great deal to support American designers, the Europeans still ruled. If you’re into the minutiae of fashion analysis from that era, you’ll see how the details changed over the years. Waistlines dropped and rose. Hemlines rose and dropped. Later in the century Balenciaga created the sack dress, which got rid of waistlines all together.

Balenciaga sack dress, year unkown; sorry I couldn't find one in red or pink
Balenciaga sack dress, year unkown

So women were flowers. They were allowed – even expected to be feminine. To be pretty. To be elegant. And this is where my infatuation turns into full-blown lust. The models of the era were slender, all stylized angles and curves, and the photographers who worked with them elevated their look even further.

Suzy Parker, 1955
Suzy Parker, 1955

The images are often boldly graphic, the colors and poses chosen to highlight the architectural details of the look. Their hair is all about control, the curls set and sprayed, and the model’s make-up is always perfect: high arched brows, dark liner, and strong lips.

1950s make-up, looking like something a real woman could do
1950s make-up, on a model who looks like a real woman
Suzy Parker from 1955. She did her own make-up  for photographs.
Suzy Parker from 1955. She did her own make-up for photographs.
Marilyn Monroe, demonstrating her iconic make-up
Marilyn Monroe, demonstrating her iconic take on ’50s make-up

As we lift ourselves from our Valentine’s hangovers, I hope you appreciate this flashback to one of the most beautiful eras in fashion, where woman were graceful, classic, and chic – and confined to the home and prepared for marriage and babies and severely underpaid when they did work and not expected to worry their pretty little heads about anything too important.

But damn they looked good.

Cheers!

Liv

Suzy Parker in a dress by Givenchy, 1954
Suzy Parker in a dress by Givenchy, 1954
Dovima for Modess, 1953
Dovima for Modess, 1953

 

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