Saturday, March 5, 2011

5 March 1957 “50 Years of Women’s Silhouette”

I thought it would be fun to see the change in women’s fashion silhouette over the past 50 years (1907-57). I have done this before in JULY 1955 HERE.

As a light and fun weekend pictorial I thought we could take that journey again:

First up 1907: The “S” curve shape and the corset has reached its pinnacle of contortion before disappearing somewhat during the first world War years. Corsets were worn in the teens, but they were more of a chemise and in fact much less constrictive than the 1950’s girdle. The waist line also received a combination of natural waist in the back scooping to a lower waist in front, all very held in a lower hip hugging corset. 

1907 1907suit 1907ladies

1917: Here we can see that the corset is almost not needed. This was probably one of the most relaxed silhouettes for women. You can see that an almost ‘large middle’ was encouraged. A heavier girl could easily hid her flaws during this period.

1917 This is the more high fashion look at it1917fashion2 While these 1917 shirtwaists and skirts would require a corset (though not as strict as 10 years earlier) The waist was raised from the 1907 lowered front and raised back look of the “S” curve.

1927: many people think 1920’s = short skirt. But it wasn’t until 1925 that the skirt actually reached above the knee. It then immediately began its descent down again. So, here by 1927 we see it just below the knee.

1927golfoutfit 1927fashion

1937: And now 10 years later the hemline has migrated back down mid-calf, almost to the NEW LOOK length. Of course Dior has another 10 years and a war to get through before the look is found. Now the waist is gone and the dropped waist is des rigueur. The straighter boyish silhouette was murder for the fuller figure woman (who would have been the epitome of fashion in 1907) and she often wore a corset type garment that flattened her breasts and padded her middle to match her hips to give a straighter line.

1937 Model, leaning on a square pedestal with white drapery hanging from poles behind her, wearing a dark wool, long jacketed suit with large, figurine buttons, by Schiaparelli, and a black Merry Widow felt hat, inspired by the costumes of Mae West's new film Here you can see the shoulder pad beginning to be introduced and it became very military in look during the war years. You do notice in the 1930’s that the waist has traveled up a bit almost to the 1917 position.

1947: Now the war has ended (and during the war years the skirt climbed back up to knee length due to shortages more than fashion). So the New Look celebrated the new abundance with a sloped shoulder and tighter natural waist and full skirt.

1947diro Though many women did not like the longer skirt length and on average a 1947 woman would still be dressed very ‘1940s’ Joan Crawford look.mccalls1947 But the new look of longer skirt was definitely being embraced as well as can be seen in this 47 Butterick pattern book.

1957: Now as we are approaching the end of the 1950’s we still have the full skirt, dolman sleeve look of the mid 50’s as can be seen in these Speigal dresses.57 

ChristianDior1957 And Dior’s look had moved up the hemline and created the look of the 3/4 sleeve. An almost abridged version of his 1947 New Look 10 years earlier.

 LaurenBacall1957 But, here Lauren Bacall in 1957 is demonstrating the new dropped waist and straighter look that the early 1960’s will run parallel to the full skirted look.

When you consider the change in the past 50 years there have been changes but not to the level and distortion the first 5 decades of the 20th century showed.

What is your favorite period out of these presented? What is your favorite fashion period of any time?


  1. I absolutely love the cut of 50's dresses. I do own a couple of actual vintage 50's dresses (not that they fit anymore, post-baby, haha) but even with modern clothing, I always seek out that a-line and flared cut for the skirt, and either short sleeves or 3/4 length sleeves. I just think it's a lot more flattering, and I like that it's more modest. It seems like most dresses are so short now...sometimes it's a struggle to find dresses that are long enough to not show your underwear every time you move!

  2. Thanks for sharing these beautiful images! I love anything that is vintage beauty-related. My grandmother always talked about how she found modern women's clothes to be very unflattering for a woman's figure. I completely agree! The dresses and overall style of clothing from the 50s is (I think) by far the most attractive style of clothing that women have ever worn. I get high fashion (well, sort of...) and all the abstract/artsy stuff, but clothing should do two things: 1)cover you and 2)flatter you. Styles from the 50s do both! I like the fact that women could be sexy then, but still be completely covered. (Nowdays naked seems to most people's idea of sexy...Yuck!) Compare clothing from the 50s, which gives every-sized woman shape, to clothing from practically any other time period and I think it's obvious that it does more for the female figure. I wish these styles were more popular and easy to find!

  3. I agree, I love the 50's style!! I'm totally in love with the A-lines, in my book nothing beats a full skirt with a tutu-skirt underneath! It's really flattering and makes me feel like a princess:) But of course, there's always some nice things to find from other eras too! I'm always on the lookout for the perfect vintage garment that don't only fit, but also looks good.. Sadly most vintage dresses with a full skirt has really tiny waists, but that's what we have reproductions for;)

  4. I love the 40's and the early 50's. Even when you were working hard in a factory, you still looked like a lady! I have long legs that look great in an A-line skirt, and I love wearing full skirts too.

  5. i'm a '30's-40's lover, for sure!! those styles just suit my style as well as body type. i just can't have enough of it!

  6. 50s Times: Since I am a new follower, I'm not sure if you have already posted about this in the past, but talking of vintage clothing leads me to naturally think of vintage sizing. Perhaps you could do a post about how much sizes have changed over the years? It bugs me when people say "Marilyn Monroe was somewhat'heavy' because she, at times, wore a size 14." What people DON'T understand is that a size 14 in 1952 was much, much smaller than our current size 14. Just a thought... Love your blog!

  7. I ADORE the New Look! It is the most feminine look ever. The pastels, the cardigans, the full circle or pencil skirts – so lovely.

  8. I'm 10's and 50's lover! I really like the fashions from the titanic era, or the full skirts from the early 50's. Take a look at how the fashion decayed trought the years, I find it very sad:

    Jane from Brazil

  9. I LOVE THIS POST! Fashions from the past are so interesting and we find them coming back around so often! Thanks for posting this!


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