1950s Fashion – Women’s Dresses

Women dressed “smartly’ in the Fifties. 1950s Fashion Women’s Dresses were all about good grooming and a tailored look, these attributes were prized. Acting and looking “every inch the lady” was taught virtually from the cradle and wearing a dress was a given.

Notice our first lady has heels and gloves. This was required to complete the look.

The dress at left, a summery afternoon floral, has what was called a swing skirt. This very popular style had many forms, including the poodle skirt.

Although never provocative 1950s Women’s dresses could be very seductive. The skirt part of this dress is in the pencil style. The object here is to attain an hourglass, or figure eight, body shape. This type of dress or skirt was not worn by young girls or teens. Too alluring.

Not seen but almost always present, a girdle was a necessary part of all ensembles.

At left, this lady is perhaps off to shop or to lunch. She’s wearing a swing or full skirt style dress in a geometric pattern. 1950s women’s dresses came in a almost unlimited array of patterns and colors. Remember though nothing was ever garish or over the top.

Again, on the left a swing dress in the full skirt style. This might have been worn in the afternoon with it’s characteristically 1950’s soft feminine touches.

Also you should note that the women in all of these pics are well coordinated. Purses matched shoes or belts, the hat could also match but was usually meant to accent another part of the ensemble.

Women wore a lot of sweaters, jackets or shawls in the 1950s. It helped to complete the outfit and was also handy for warmth with all of the sleeveless styles.

Contrary to whatever impression you may have gathered from watching Donna Reed or Harriett Nelson, real wives and mothers did not go around doing housework in dresses accessorized by pearls and heels.

Mother might, however, wear a wrap dress as pictured here. Or the simple everyday dresses also pictured. The key here is the word “dress”. It was the most common item worn by women at the time.

As the decade moved on, polka dots became a very popular style. Why, is a question mark but I believe that Women were just getting a little sick of always wearing either a solid color or a floral print.

The polka dot style could be in any color, short or long, full or pencil looks. This model has coordinated with white accessories which would make this a summery ensemble. Had she chosen dark coordinating items it would have been fine for fall or winter.


Here is a little different take on the polka dot. Using fruit in a bold color was just one way designers tried to differentiate their designs from the crowd. The long gloves on this model would probably be worn for evening and not with a day dress. (Although with that hat it could have been a Kentucky Derby ensemble)

This woman is wearing a knit dress. Knits were worn for occasions that required a little bit more of a dressed up look. This outfit features a pencil skirt which certainly shows off the model’s figure. Knits were generally more expensive and favored by the big European Design Houses.

Here is another form fitting dress, this one in wool. This outfit would definitely be for winter. If you’re wondering about the purse, it matched the shoes which got cut off in this pic.

Silk was also a popular fabric for dresses.

In the late 1940’s all silk went to support the war effort and was used in making parachutes, so none was available for dresses. Well the 1950s brought silk back into the dress market and the women loved it.

Pictured here is a feminine pink springtime dress with a shirt type front and dainty round collar.

Although maybe not the most flattering snap shot, this woman’s whole look is very typical of a 1950s woman’s look. She is probably downtown shopping and this outfit would be considered everyday, casual nice.

Pictured here are a couple of everyday dresses. These could be bought right from a Sear’s Catalog and were priced under $10.00.

Here are a few more popular 1950s fashion women’s dresses.

Candace Rich :