Millennials are revving up the apparel world by bringing the old out of the closet! Collectively, they’re leaning heavily toward retro styles and sensibilities, beginning with a thorough embrace of 1950s fashion.
For an industry that’s worth in excess of $340 billion in the United States and roughly 62 billion Euros (approximately $74 billion) annually, everyone with a horse in this race should pay attention.
Of course, Generation Y members aren’t the only lovers of 1950s vintage wear: They’re followed closely by retro-looking Boomers, Generation Xers, and Generation Z members. Together, they’re helping fashion-forward ladies embrace the delightful looks from smack-dab in the middle of the 20th century.
Why the 1950s Fashion Madness?
Every woman enamored with 1950s fashion has her own reason for loving the period. For some, it was a time when women could show off their intrinsic femininity. For others, the 1950s seems like a time when the country was more stable thanks to the post-World War II relief and economic boom.
Whatever the core justification for feeling a kinship with mid-century wear and mores, women have kept 1950s outfits on the map. Not surprisingly, clothing designers, manufacturers, and sellers are pleased to present the public with options.
From flirty and floral chiffon v-neck dresses to elbow-length gloves, savvy retailers are making yesterday’s feminine clothing a thing of the present, not just the past. At the same time, consumers are actively seeking ways to merge their newly purchased 1950s fashion items with more contemporary pieces.
It’s a veritable time-machine of activity, with consumers attempting to straddle the decades.
Not sure how to span the bridge between now and then like a style pro? It’s easier than finding an Elvis tune in a 1950s-decorated music store!
Take a look at some of the simplest ways to show off your vintage-inspired pinup dresses without compromising your modern sass.
Marry Various Pieces from Your Current Collection
We’ve all had the experience: You see an outfit you absolutely adore, but you aren’t sure how to make it work for your nine-to-five grind.
Before you stop yourself from making a purchase you’ll love, remember that there’s always a way for a fashionista to strut her stuff — including in the boardroom or cubicle.
Who says that it’s not possible for you to wear a vintage red pin-up dress with candy-cane stripes to the office? All you need to do is change the mood of the tune from Jerry Lee Lewis to Johnny Mathis.
Start by pairing your daring dresses with contemporary coats or sweaters. Don’t be afraid to test the look by trying on something incredibly modern, such as a faux fur sleeveless vest from the nearest mall or outlet store.
Similarly, recall that leather jacket from a few years back? Now is the time to dust it off, polish it up, and use it to spice up your swing-style dress with the flared skirt.
Not sure where to begin? Feeling a bit overwhelmed as you look at your closet? All it takes is a willingness to mix and match — so put on some La Bamba and dance as you experiment.
Your objective? Create a 1950s fashion look with an edge of modernity.
Go Crazy With Your Eyewear Choices
Who could forget the way that Aubrey Hepburn looked in her “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” sunglasses from Oliver Goldsmith? No wonder she’s one of the pinnacles of 1950s fashion.
Before you follow suit, think about your own face shape and preferences.
Sure, it’s tempting to go cat-eye with your glasses and sunglasses, but why follow the sheeple who want to tell you how to play up one of your favorite time periods? You’re original, and your eyewear should be, too.
Rather than focusing on 1950s fashion eyewear styles, feel free to pair up your vintage-inspired apparel with seriously “now” lenses and frames. Head over to your eye doctor, or even the nearest “one-hour” glasses place and start modeling.
Allow your face shape and persona to guide you, rather than your dress. Trust us: Vintage dresses can handle anything you throw their way, including big, bold, round sunglasses.
Capture your essence with leading-edge eyewear — those frilly skirts with plunging necklines won’t mind.
Spice up the Underneath-It-All
Once upon a time, having a tiny waist was the shape of things to come for all women. This led to boned corseting and other types of appliances that sucked in the middle to establish an hourglass figure.
Although it might seem like that happened long ago, all those pin-up stars were still wearing girdles and modified corsets in the 1950s.
At the same time, panties that came to the natural waistline were the height of fashion, too. It was necessary at a time when thongs were out-of-the-question and women’s undergarments were woefully limited in style.
Feel a little daunted by trying to go totally 1950s fashion from head-to-toe and underneath? Ditch the thought and go to Victoria’s Secret or buy some Spanx.
No one from the fashion police is going to break down your door, and you’ll walk around all day with a sly smile knowing that you’re wearing some really pretty undergarments. Though your outside will exclaim “1950s fashion,” your gorgeous trappings underneath will be 21st-century intimates.
Snatch a Pair of Cool or Funky Heels
In the 1950s, women’s footwear ranged from pin-up pumps to saddle shoes to Mary Janes. Now, gals have plenty more opportunities to show their personality and style with footwear.
Can you imagine how excited Marilyn Monroe would have been had she been introduced to the plethora of shoes available in-store and online? No doubt she would have spent lots of time on some of the hottest sites snagging deals left and right.
So how do you reveal your modernness while you’re decked out like a fresh-faced 1950s debutante? Read and discover!
Going out on the town in a sassy, swing-style cocktail dress? Pair it with an open-toed pump with a sky-high five-inch heel to make a stellar impression from the bottom to the top.
Trying to bring yourself back to earth in the same dress, perhaps to go to work or a stroll around the park? Grab a pair of coordinating flats and breeze through your evening with flair.
Just because 1950s fashion didn’t include thigh-high boots doesn’t mean you can’t wear them with a flowery rockabilly frock. As a vintage clothing curator of your private closet, your role should always be to make each outfit your own.
As they say, a girl can never have too many shoes. And those shoes are made for walking, not to mention showing off vintage dresses.
Test Some Totally Non-50s Jewelry
Time to move to the jewelry box or drawer because your 1950s retro-clad body deserves some extra sparkle.
A big part of 1950s fashion was to always — and we mean always — wear some form of jewelry. Women didn’t go out of the house without a piece of jewelry, even if it was to simply drive across town to pick up a loaf of bread.
You don’t need to head to the antique shopping center to drape yourself in jewels and other trappings. In the 1950s, women didn’t have the options you do today, so celebrate diversity by indulging in ultra-modern necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and more.
Not sure you’d appreciate the types of jewelry they were into, anyway? You can remain true to their mantra of being fully-dressed without ever putting a pearl necklace around your collarbone.
Consider the myriad types of jewelry creations available to members of the avant-garde or contemporary crowd: sleek rings, wild earrings, imposing neck chains. Who’s to say that a steampunk anklet wouldn’t go perfectly with your goth-centric mid-century corset?
Hey, even a Hello Kitty necklace from a kids’ clothing store could make a fun accompaniment to any vintage dress.
Dazzle With a Daring ‘Do
If you’re like many women, you immediately think of pin-up hairstyles when you contemplate 1950s fashion. It’s completely normal, because, for most of us, our introduction to the 1950s was Bettie Page, Betty Grable, or Bunny Yeager.
Fear not: You don’t have to master the pin curl to rock a vintage vibe.
For many trendsetters, hairstyles and updos are about the wearer, not the items she’s wearing.
Want to look more like a punk rocker from 1980 instead of a pin-up from 1955 from the neck up? Spike your hair until it stands at attention. No one will doubt that you’ve been inspired by 1950s fashion.
Prefer sleek locks that extend way down the back of your fabulous “I Love Lucy” reminiscent day dress? Pull out your hair straightener and go to town without an ounce of guilt.
Having a hairstyle that completely represents your personality isn’t mutually exclusive from wearing 1950s fashion. It’s a way to show the world that you’re a person on a mission to mingle yesteryear with yesterday.
Top off Your Look With Hats
For a lady in the 1950s, a hat or scarf was a must. Whether she set off to the grocers or was planning to visit a neighbor in the next block, she tended to keep her head covered.
While we’ve moved well past this style necessary, it can still be refreshing to play around with different hats or head coverings.
They don’t have to be from the 1950s any more than you have to wait for a gentleman to ask you on a date.
Picture yourself wearing a retro polka-dot vintage school-style dress. What would stop you from adding a baseball cap with your favorite athletic team?
Sure, you might get a stare or two, but you’d be showing a sense of whimsy. Add a pair of high-top Converse to the mix and you’d be ready to hang out with all your other eclectic friends.
Other styles of hat can work just as well with any kind of 1950s fashion. You needn’t feel that you have to pick one that looks like it came straight from the soundstage of “Rear Window.”
Apply Present-Day Makeup to Your Face
Today’s makeup tends to trend toward neutrals highlights by bold, striking colors and highlights. In the 1950s, this would have seemed unnatural, though it’s ironically more natural-looking than what they wore.
If you walked into a cinema in 1953, you would have noticed tons of red lipstick, dark eye makeup, mascara, and rouge. You’re still seeing cat-eye lid liner, but not as many ruby red lips. In fact, you might see women opting for white, black, or deep purple lip stains.
Like you can do with all types of 1950s fashion, test drive a few looks that aren’t necessarily from the good old days.
In order to mesh the modern with vintage, stick with an unexpected palette. For example, wear your new pin-up dress, but apply nude lipstick and sparkling eyeshadow. Your clothing can say “1951” while your face says “totally mod.”
Although this recommendation might not seem dramatic on paper, in the real world, different makeup applications can completely change the tone of any outfit.
Treat Yourself to a Newfangled Handbag or Case
It’s ridiculously exciting to root through clothing and other pieces at a retro shop only to find a 1950s fashion purse. Sadly, that only happens occasionally because little-by-little those purses are simply not holding up to the rigors of time.
Fortunately, there’s a silver lining: You get to pick from practically innumerable choices of modern handbags, carrying totes, purses, and other similar accessories available through web and brick-and-mortar stores.
The typical woman in the 1950s never needed to carry a laptop around, but you do. If you need a leather Kate Spade tote, so be it.
Are you a high-powered businesswoman on the move? Wear your 1950s fashion with pride, but don’t feel you need to skimp on a contemporary briefcase to hold all your documents and devices.
From far away, you might look at first like you walked out of the pages of a 1952 “Vogue” ad, but close up you’ll have a fresh, individualistic appeal.
Combine 1950s Fashion and Contemporary Style for Glamour
You deserve to feel like a million bucks, but shouldn’t have your personal style hampered by fashion dictates from the past century. Rev up your fashion statements and boldly play a game of outfit mix-and-match.
And when your new, completely “you,” style is in the bag?
Get thee to a photographer to capture your perfectly unique beauty.
Ready for your close up? Check out our advice when it comes to planning and executing an exciting pin-up shoot!