Fashion and footwear from the 1950s

I am interested in what people wore in the past, so this month I am writing about fashion and footwear from the 1950s. I have been wanting to write this post for ages, and now that I have finally got around to it, it has turned out to be a much longer post than I expected.

Rock and roll was a style of music that was popular in the 1950s. Rock and roll dance was also very popular in the 1950s. During this decade, women wore big, full skirts for rock and roll dance, and the skirts would swing and flare out when they were dancing. It was very common for these skirts to have an appliqué french poodle on them, earning the skirts the name poodle skirt. There were other appliqué designs, but the poodle design was most popular. Women wore these skirts with a cardigan, often matching the colour of their skirt. It was also fashionable in the 1950s for women to wear a belted dress that had a pleated skirt.

1950s

This woman wears a belted dress that has a collar and pleated skirt, with low heeled peep-toe shoes; all were common styles in the 1950s.

Even glasses from this era had a distinctive style. Horn-rimmed glasses, which are glasses with big, black frames were popular in the 1950s, and worn by both men and women. These glasses were known as Buddy Holly glasses, named after Buddy Holly because he wore glasses in this style. Buddy Holly was a popular American singer in the 1950s, and considered one of the main figures of rock and roll in the mid-1950s. Horn-rimmed glasses have been around since the early 1900s. Originally, they were made out of real horn or tortoise shell, but by the 1950s when they were extremely popular, they were made of plastic, which was stronger. A variant of the horn-rimmed glasses was the browline glasses. These were glasses that had plastic brows only on the tops of glasses, rather than all the way around like horn-rimmed glasses. Browline glasses were also hugely popular in the 1950s. Another style of glasses that was popular in the 1950s was cat eye glasses. These are glasses that curve up at the sides, like a cat’s eye. Cat eye glasses were mostly worn by women, though some men wore them too in the 1950s.

1950s1

This woman wears a poodle skirt with cardigan, and browline cat eye glasses in a tortoise shell style – all quintessential fashion of the 1950s.

In terms of footwear, the defining footwear style of the 1950s was saddle shoes. Saddle shoes are low-heel, lace-up leather shoes in two colours, most commonly black and white; though any colour combination is possible. There are called saddle shoes because there is a saddle-shaped panel in the middle of the shoe, in a different colour from the rest of the shoe. Both men and women wore saddle shoes. Elvis Presley famously wore them in the 1950s. Women in the 1950s wore saddle shoes with poodle skirts and white, loose bobby socks.

saddle shoe

Replica of saddle shoes, which were worn by both men and women in the 1950s. The most common colours for saddle shoes were black and white.

Sling back sandals and peep toe styles were also popular with women in the 1950s. The following are a couple of women’s evening shoes from the 1950s.

1950s peeptoe

Red satin and gold leather peeptoe shoe from the 1950s, by Frank Brothers, Chicago and New York.

1950s rear peeptoe

Rear view of the 1950s red satin shoe by Frank Brothers, which has painted gold leather heel and sole.

1950s slingback

A gold satin slingback sandal with bronze and pearl beading, from the late 1950s.

1950s slingback rear

Rear view of the 1950s gold satin slingback sandal.