Archive for July, 2009

Fifties Glamour with Cosmetics

Friday, July 31st, 2009

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In the 1950s, colour films made an enormous impact on cosmetics. The huge cinema screens illuminated the unblemished appearance of stars and caused the make up artist Max Factor to invent an everyday version of the foundation he used called “Pan Cake”. This was a makeup to gloss over skin imperfections. He also brought out a range of eye shadows and lipsticks which helped create the 1950s glamour.

Later in the 50s titanium was added to tone down the brightness of products and this resulted in lips with a pale shimmering gleam.

Magazines taught step by step how to use recently introduced lip brushes and young girls began to blend and mix their own lip colours often having first blotted the lips out with Max Factor Pancake make up.

The idea was extended to create frosted nail varnishes of pink, peach, silver and a host of other colours but in this 1955 image below you can see the colour to wear was red. The model below shows scarlet fingernails and lips and finishes off her outfit with a smart beret.

Left 1955 Makeup & Manicure

In the late 50s the make up company Gala had introduced pale shimmering lipsticks with added titanium. Later Max Factor brought out a colour called Strawberry Meringue which was a pastel pearly pink. They really caught on in the late fifties and early sixties as young girls were frowned upon if they wore brazen red lips, so the softened pink and peach colours were acceptable initially to parents and then became a trend.

As the fifties ended, Vogue magazine had started to coordinate the colour’s of the season’s latest clothes with those of the cosmetics on offer. Eventually all the make up houses followed, producing ranges that picked up colour changes.

1950s Hats

Friday, July 31st, 2009

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Hats added the final touch of 1950s glamour to a woman or girl’s outfit, particularly in the early fifties. Last year’s dress or suit could be updated easily with a new hat or a fresh ornament such as flowers, an autumnal bunch of acorns and leaves, or a bunch of cherries.

Corsage made of fruits. Similar items were used to trim hats

Balenciaga had first shown the pillbox and it became the hat of the fifties and later the hat of the sixties when it was greatly favoured by Jackie Kennedy. The pillbox often had veiling attached as shown in the header.

Neat pillbox style hat image left is courtesy of anothertimevintageapparel

In the mid fifties glorious hat styles covered less in plumage and more in floral blooms appeared. Some designs consisted solely of bomb like shapes covered with flower petals, almost like a more full blown version of the swimming cap above. Later hats consisted of folds of tulle, organza, nets or swirls of georgette.

Other simple hats included neat beret varieties and also knitted beret hats with tassels or pom-pom.

The jester 4 cornered beret hat was made of felt and velvet and available in a riot of glorious colours and was priced at one guinea or 21 shillings.

The head hugging Baker Boy beret was in a fabric called suedeen and jersey for 22/-.

Generally hats began to lose favour in the fifties as they were unsuitable for the new hairstyles. Women spent more time at the hair salon and the last thing they wanted to do was spoil their latest hairdo with a hat. Fashionable hairstyles began with simple ponytails and ended the decade with complex beehive arrangements.

Milliners could have designed hats more suitable for the new fuller bouffant hairstyles, but they failed to see the possibilities and designs continued as before and they lost the market for hats eventually.

1950s Evening Wear

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

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Not all women could afford to wear couture designer clothes in the fifties and the majority of women wore mass produced goods. Yet fresh ideas and fashion concepts trickled down from the French salons to Madame dress shops and department stores throughout the world.

Miss and Mrs. Average were soon seen in looks that captured the essential style set by Paris. These are the clothes most vintage pickers find today. They were produced fairly rapidly by improved production methods in a post war economy boom for a society desperate for “new” goods of every description.

Clothes worn in the day were very feminine and designed to remind women they were women. Women also still craved luxury in dress after years of deprivation during the Utility period. Evening wear produced in the 50s even for the masses was often ultra glamorous. Aspects of 50’s vintage clothing to collect are clothes with tiny waists, shown often as glamorous, feminine, luxurious, low necked evening dresses or boned strapless dresses in taffetas, tulle, lace, nets, chiffon and satin or even nylon.

A wide range of net and nylon hoop crinoline style petticoats were produced to support the full bouffant skirts. Vintage under slips of the era are very collectable. You may even find a well designed vintage strapless bra of the era or wasp waist corset, but stiffened boned areas were often built into bodices and that forced a specific shape when on the wearer. Net and lace were both used extensively to make many mid priced dresses.

Shorter Cocktail Dresses

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

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Shorter cocktail dresses with higher necklines were never worn before 6pm and they were often of shot silk, brocade, lace net, grosgrain, chiffon, tulle, lustrous satin and even floral or abstract prints. The LBD or little black dress as we know it today evolved from this period.

The trapeze dress was a high busted swinging dress, whilst the waistless chemise look of 1958 was a forerunner of sixties styles and really began to catch on with a simplicity of shape welcome after the rigor of belts.

Prom dress

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

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A true 1950s ballerina length vintage bouffant style party formal with extra details. Net tulle and lace dress was probably a prom dress and it is perfect for dancing. The skirt is frothy layers of stiffened net and lace and is extremely full. Sweet pink paper flowers accent the bust. This item also includes a matching net stole not shown.

Coat with Dresses

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

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One feature outfit of the ’50s was the matching dress with either a jacket or three quarter sleeve swing duster coat, sometimes also called an opera coat when made in a glamorous evening fabric like satin or brocade. They were made in crisp firmer cottons in solid colours, for day.

Dress jackets varied in silhouette from chopped off small boleros cut above the waist by a few inches having a toreador effect, or jackets could be bloused at the waist or appear as hip length jackets.

1950s Shirtwaisters

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009


As the 50’s decade progressed shirt styles were put atop the waist of either a straight or full skirt making the shirtwaist dress a popular practical style among young and old alike. 1950s shirtwaisters often had three quarter sleeves and turn back cuffs. As fabrics they used typical colour combinations being navy and white, emerald and white or candy pink and white as well as plain solid strong colours like turquoise or coral.

1950s – Straight Sheath Dresses

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

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Straight sheath dresses fitted and darted, or princess seamed, were made from satin cotton in sleeveless and cap sleeve versions. Fine wool crepe or Barathea was often used for a sleeved version. Many early fifties garments had boat or jewel necks and nearer the sixties scoop necklines were more usual.

1950s – Full Skirted Dresses

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

For day, calf length, small waisted full skirted cotton and cotton satin or seersucker dresses with covered matching fabric belts, in beautiful floral and botanical prints, such as cabbage roses were typical choices.  Autumnal leaves or green ferns, cherries and acorns all looked good in lustrous cotton sateen and were used for dress and scarf fabric prints.  Fresh looking gingham checks, spots and  diamond trellis checks were also popular and all make for very collectible fifties vintage now.

Evening dresses

Monday, July 13th, 2009

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