A Quick Guide to 1950s Pinup Fashion

by Nicole in , , 2 Comments — Updated August 11, 2023

Fashions were quickly changing in the 1950s. Hemlines were coming up, and necklines were dropping. More women than ever before were turning in their dresses for pants. Many young men adorned their bedroom walls with 1950 pinup fashion posters of Hollywood stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Natalie Wood and Marilyn Monroe. Women sought to look like them by copying the 1950s pinup fashion. Many clothing items created in the 1950s are great to wear to work, school and parties today.


A Quick Guide to 1950s Pinup Fashion
Source: Bess Georgette on Flickr.com

Many women preferred wearing 1950s fashion dresses over pants because they were more comfortable in them. On some college campuses, however, that began to change. When it did, it quickly spread throughout the rest of society. There are at least two styles of casual dresses that are easy to recreate. They will look sharp at the office or on a casual date.

A-line Dresses

A Quick Guide to 1950s Pinup Fashion
Credits: fashion-pictures.com

Read my article Sammy Davis, for complete details, but no fashion designer had more influence on the 1950s fashion than Christian Dior. His influence can be seen in the A-line dress that he introduced in the spring of 1955. Until that point, women had worn fashions with tightly nipped-in waist and broad shoulders. The A-line was seen as radical because of its narrow shoulders, elongated waistline and trumpet-like flared hemline. Take a look at this vintage A-line dress from Rose Wholesale to create this look for yourself.

Shirtwaist Dresses

A Quick Guide to 1950s Pinup Fashion
Source: CastawayVintage on Flickr.com

Another very popular style was the shirtwaist dress. Originally, introduced by Christian Dior in 1947, this style of dress was particularly popular with teenagers. It is set apart by its sloped shoulders which were a drastic change from the boxy shoulders just a few years before. This dress also has a raised bust line. The real change, however, came with a very narrow waist starting with a padded hipline and flowing away to a skirt with lots of fabric that was often pleated ending just below mid-calf. Wear this casual dress on your next shopping trip by getting this one from EricDress.

Evening Dresses

A Quick Guide to 1950s Pinup Fashion
Source: barbie.harris37 on Flickr.com

As prosperity grew throughout the decade, there were many elaborate dresses. The ability to mass produce garments allowed many people to be able to afford them.

Bubble Dresses

A Quick Guide to 1950s Pinup Fashion
Source: BHLDN

Many of the most popular prom dresses today are based on styles of the 1950s. Again, Christian Dior created one of the fashions that every girl had to have when he included the bubble dress in his 1954 and 1956 collections. French designer Pierre Cardin also included it in his collection. These dresses are made with hems that fold back on themselves to form a bubble. Women could find various style tops, but bustier ones are most common. Making them even more radical for their time, most had hemlines ending mid-thigh to just above the knee. Look spectacular at your next party by checking out this offering from Lyst (@lyst).

Wedding Dresses

A Quick Guide to 1950s Pinup Fashion
Source: Wedding Dress Factory Outlet on Flickr.com

Many brides chose wedding dresses made with a sweetheart neckline after watching Elizabeth Taylor in Father of the Bride. Ballerina-length dresses were a popular choice for both the bride and her party. Brides who chose to go with a longer dress usually loved lacy tiers and flouncy frills. Grace Kelly’s marriage in 1956 set the tone for many brides throughout the last half of the decade. Kate Middleton went retro when she wore an almost exact copy of Grace Kelly’s wedding gown. Look spectacular on your wedding day by wearing this dress from David’s Bridal.

Also see this informative article on How to Identify the Era of a Vintage Wedding Dress


A Quick Guide to 1950s Pinup Fashion
Source: Dave Winer on Flickr.com

After Mary Tyler Moore dared to wear pants on the Dick Van Dyke show, women everywhere wanted a pair of feminine pants. Designers followed the trend by giving women pants in several different styles.

Cigarette Pants

A Quick Guide to 1950s Pinup Fashion
Photographed by Mark Shaw, 1953 / Source: inlovewithaudreyhepburn.tumblr.com

Women usually chose a pair of cigarette pants with side or back zippers. These pants were cut full through the hips tapering to slim- fitting legs. Most cigarette pants ended just above the ankle allowing women to show off their stylish footwear. They had a high waist usually accentuated with a 3 inch waistband. Some women broke up the wide waistband with a thin leather belt. Early on, these pants were mostly black, but by the end of the decade women were expressing their own unique style by wearing stripes, leopard prints, checks and polka dots. Consider adding a pair to your wardrobe by getting these from Unique Vintage (@uniquevintage)


A Quick Guide to 1950s Pinup Fashion
Source: rocknromance.co.uk

Capris also came into popularity during the 1950s as everyone wanted to look like Audrey Hepburn in her latest hits. This style of pant was actually introduced by Sonja de Lennart in 1948. Many women wanted to pretend they had Italian roots by wearing black capris with a red and white knit shirt. Others chose to wear blue capris with the same shirt to pretend that they were European. Alternatively, many paired capris with a white ruffled shirt creating a Spanish look, especially when wearing a bolero jacket. Recreate your own Audrey Hepburn look by getting these capris from ModCloth (@modcloth).


A Quick Guide to 1950s Pinup Fashion
Source: PixaBay

No longer were women stuck wearing men’s jeans around the house. They could now wear them out in public. Levi, GWG and Wrangler were all household names. Women’s jeans were often lined with plaid fabric and had wide bottoms that teens usually rolled up to show off their bobby socks. Often times, these jeans had large pockets that were outlined with a coordinating color stitching. Look fashionable at your next rockabilly party in a pair of 1950s jeans from Urban Outfitters (@urbanoutfitters).


A Quick Guide to 1950s Pinup Fashion
Credits: fiftiesweb.com

While nylon was first invented in 1935, the use of this fabric finally made its way to swimsuits in the 1950s. Most were made with sweetheart necklines. Many featured bold patterns with florals being especially popular. Women who did not feel like they were full enough, had many choices in swimwear with padded cups. Those who did not have quite the perfect beach body found choices with ruching either down the sides or in the front. Most swimsuits had a little skirt in the front or all the way around. The hottest stars were often seen in strapless suits before the decade was over. Dress the part at the next 50s pool party with this little black number from Top Vintage.


A Quick Guide to 1950s Pinup Fashion
Source: AliExpress

If there was any chance that a woman might get cold, then she would bring along a jacket. If she did not have one, then a man was expected to give her his coat as chivalry was still very much alive during the 1950s.

Swing Coats

White wool swing coat with push-up sleeves, 1954, photo by Nina Leen

Swing coats were popular when a lady went out because their fullness helped cover the bulkiness of many dresses. These coats featured fitted shoulders and flared out at the bust line. Most had large buttons all the way down the front. Many had a large belt helping to keep the coat securely closed. Jacques Fath first introduced this coat in the late 1940s, but it grew in popularity during the 1950s as it was easy to hide the baby bump which no self-respecting woman would show. Dior added one to his collection in 1951. You may hope that it rains everyday with this beautiful retro swing coat from Miss Poppy Wear(@misspoppywear).

Clutch Coats

50s vintage cream clutch coat

Very similar to the swing coat, many women wore a clutch coat. These coats were highly impractical because they were open all the way down the front without any buttons or zippers. Women would hold them shut with one hand clutched across their front. Many were made to be worn with the sleeves pushed up. Stay warm in the cooler weather with this great choice from the Shopping Channel.


A Quick Guide to 1950s Pinup Fashion
Source: The Linen Lavoir on Flickr.com

If you ask many people about the styles of the 1950s, they would instantly describe a pair of saddle shoes. There were many other styles of shoes that women loved to wear.

Saddle Shoes

A Quick Guide to 1950s Pinup Fashion
Source: Paul A. Hernandez on Flickr.com

Saddle shoes were generally white and black with laces up the front. Generally worn with a poodle skirt, they had to be kept pristine with nightly cleaning. These shoes are immensely comfortable, so get a pair from Eastland Shoe (@eastland_shoe)


A Quick Guide to 1950s Pinup Fashion
Source: erikas-film-photography.weebly.com

Pinup fashion models of the 1950s wore many stilettos with a 4 inch heel. In the beginning, the heels on these shoes ended in a metal cap. Many establishments found that they cut into hardwood floors, so they were banned from many office settings. The first stilettos were introduced in 1954 with a very rounded toe. The square-toe version came out three years later. They came in a variety of colors so that a woman could easily coordinate her wardrobe. Almost all options had high arches with a V-shaped cut into the shoe’s sides. Most women going to a formal affair chose a pair of red ones. Compliment your night out on the town with these red stilettos from Pinup Girl Clothing(@pinupgirlclothing).

Baby Dolls (Shoes)

A Quick Guide to 1950s Pinup Fashion
Source: Vintage Dancer

Baby dolls are actually a type of shoes. For running errands around town, most women had a pair of baby dolls. These shoes had very round toes resembling shoes that were popular for baby dolls of that decade. Most had an ornament or cute decoration on the top of them. They were much more comfortable to wear than a pair of tall heals when a woman planned to spend many hours on her feet. Yet, they were definitely not the military style boots that were popular in the 1940s. Add a pair of comfortable baby doll shoes to your collection by getting this one from Blue Velvet Vintage (@vintagebluevelvet).

Ballet Flats

A Quick Guide to 1950s Pinup Fashion
Source: Vintage Dancer

Although ballet flats had been around for centuries, they had gone out of vogue until Rose Repetto reintroduced them in her 1947 collection. After Audrey Hepburn declared ballet flats her favorite shoe, many teenagers wore them as often as they did their saddle shoes. While some had a very small ½ inch heel, most had no heel at all making them easy to wear to the sock hop. Black ballet flats became all the rage, but other colors were popular as well. Some had small ornamentation on top, however, most were just plain. The trend was firmly established when icon Brigitte Bardot began wearing them. Follow this trend with these classical ballet flats by Remix Vintage Shoes(@remixvintageshoes).


A Quick Guide to 1950s Pinup Fashion
Audrey Hepburn

While women still wore their big Victorian pieces in the first part of the 1950s, soon jewelry trends became smaller and more refined. Every girl wore a brooch on her shoulder with many wearing more than one at the same time. In the first part of the 1950s, gold- colored jewelry was found many places especially in big bold bracelets. In the later half of the decade, however, copper and plastic started to reign. Modernization allowed pieces to be made in mass quantities bringing down prices considerably. Many women brought jewelry in sets. Add these fashion pieces from Sweet and Spark to your jewelry box.

Fashion Accessories

A Quick Guide to 1950s Pinup Fashion
Source: WikiMedia.org

Fashion accessories helped tie an outfit together during the 1950s just like they do today.


A Quick Guide to 1950s Pinup Fashion
Source: houseofretro.com

Throughout most of the decade, no woman would be caught outside without a hat on their head giving rise to many popular styles. While it would still be a couple of years before Jacqueline Kennedy would encourage every woman in America to wear a pillbox hat, they were starting to gain in popularity. One of the reasons that women loved them so much was that it was easy to change adornments on the hat to update last year’s outfit. You can do the same today when you get this hat from Polyvore(@polyvore).

See also:  How to Wear Vintage Hats Like Kate Middleton


A Quick Guide to 1950s Pinup Fashion

Berets became very popular as the decade came to a close. Many young ladies resisted the urge to grow their hair long., so they did not have to spend hours at the beauty shop each week. Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe popularized the trend of wearing a black beret with a striped t-shirt.

We hope that you have enjoyed this quick guide to 1950s pinup fashion, and that you are ready to wear them. If so, would you please share it with your friends. They may want to incorporate some of these ideas into their own wardrobe. We would love to hear your comments on how to be a 1950 pinup fashion star, so feel free to share them with us.

2 thoughts on “A Quick Guide to 1950s Pinup Fashion”

  1. You got this! I simply wanted to thank you so much again. I am not sure the things that I might have gone through without the type of hints revealed by you regarding that situation.

  2. I grew up in the 50’s. I may be wrong but I doubt that anybody wore their skirts as short as you show in some of the pictures. Above the knee I’m pretty sure was unheard of so those pictures look very odd to me, remembering how things were. Little girls had skirts that were hemmed right below the knee and women wore their skirts way below the knee. Mini-skirts did not come about until the mid-60’s. The gold sequined dress is definitely 1960’s. Everyone wore a slip underneath shirtwaist dresses. Otherwise sunlight shined through the skirt and you could see legs and higher and that was considered embarrassing (believe it or not)! You wouldn’t have the bottom of the two sides of the skirt pinned back like in the picture. If you did, your slip would show.


Leave a Comment