The 1950s was a stylish, yet conservative, era for women's fashion. Ladies wore long skirts, and pants were not yet seen as acceptable everyday wear for women. Women were expected to always be well groomed and smartly presented in public. 1950s style is still often seen as an influence on today's fashion, especially the '50s "pinup" look.
There were two main styles of dress that were popular in the 1950s -- the swing dress and the pencil dress. Swing dresses came in at the waist, but then went out into a very large and full skirt. Pencil dresses also came in at the waist, but they stayed fitted and figure-hugging all the way down. In both cases, dresses were knee-length or just below. Sleeves commonly reached around the middle of the upper-arm, but could be longer or shorter.
Skirts and Blouses
The alternative to wearing a dress in the 1950s, was to wear a combination of a skirt and a blouse. Pencil skirts were worn for a glamorous or sophisticated look. Poodle skirts and pleated skirts were also popular. Blouses were fitted and worn tucked in. However, ladies wore many different varieties of blouse during the '50s. Short-, long- and puff-sleeved blouses were common. It was not unusual for a younger lady to wear a cropped blouse in the summer, as long as her skirt covered her belly button.
Pants and Shorts
Pants and shorts were only acceptable for women to wear in the most casual situations. Ladies could wear pants at home, if they had no guests over, or to a picnic or barbecue. Pants tended to be tight-fitting, and not dissimilar to a two-legged version of the pencil skirt. Shorts were often looser fitting and were acceptable beach wear. Culottes were seen as slightly more formal than shorts or pants, but weren't hugely popular in the '50s.
The main uniting feature of women's hairstyles in this decade was the curl. Whether you had long or short hair, fashion dictated that it should be curly. Women who had naturally straight hair would either curl their hair in rollers or get a chemical perm. Fashionable hairstyles ranged from the graceful Bridget Bardot style of long hair, lightly curled at the ends, to the short, tightly curled poodle cut.