Spring Fashions from the 1950s

fashion 1955
Lars Nordin/Nordin Nilson, Nordiska museet [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I grew up in the 1950s but I don’t remember being aware of fashions until the 1960s. Looking at old black and white photos of my mum I really like the dresses she wore.

Like many women in those days, she made all her own clothes and those for my sister and myself too. She had a Singer sewing machine and she could knock out a couple of new frocks for us overnight.

She’d pin the pattern, cut out the dresses, tack them together, and try them on us for fit before we went to bed. When we got up the next day, the new outfits were usually ready and we could try them on before setting off for school.

However, what I realise now it that there was a whole world of high fashion in the 1950s that passed me by.

Maybe my mum was aware of what was in vogue and perhaps that influenced what she made for herself. Although she was limited by what was available in her local store for both patterns and fabric.

These YouTube video clips are wonderful.

Enjoy the fashions!

Cringe at the Commentaries!

Some odd styles in this set from 1958.

Lots of footage of empty chairs in this one.

And this is mercifully silent!

Thanks for visiting my blog today.

Hope you found something you might like to wear!

March 2nd Update

This blog post is getting hundreds of hits and I really don’t know why.

If anyone would leave a comment and tell me what you’re looking for I’d be intrigued to know.

Here’s a photo of my mum in about 1954. She’s carrying my sister and I’m the cute toddler holding her hand.

I think you’ll agree she was good at dress making to make this one. Some of her dress’ small buttons covered in matching fabric ended up in my sister’s button box which is how I know that the pattern was grey with a black line design overall on a creamy background. The fabric was crepe which is why it hangs so well. She’d made both mine and my sister’s dresses. You can’t really see but there was smocking on the bodice and she did that herself too.

My mum (in the middle) made these super awesome checked shorts for our summer holiday in Mablethorpe, on the Lincolnshire coast. Was she anticipating hot pants? But her own outfit is really nice as usual.

This is an excerpt from my book Cabbage and Semolina: Memories of a 1950s Childhood

Nylon Frocks and Cotton Socks

All our clothes, except coats and undies, were home-made by our mother who was a dab-hand with her sewing machine. She had a Singer sewing machine purchased in 1953 for £22 / 18s / 9d. How do I know that? My dad saved the receipt (in case the machine didn’t work and he had to take it back to the shop) and I’ve still got it in my family history box.

Mum sewed dresses for winter and for summer; shorts for going on holiday; and blouses for school. She knitted cardigans, jumpers, gloves, scarves; hats; even a woolly swimsuit.

Note: no trousers. Girls didn’t wear trousers in those days.

We had new best clothes for Christmas and new best clothes at Whitsun; and then the old best clothes became our school clothes. It wasn’t that it was make-do-and-mend anymore: it’s just that the habits of the wartime years had stuck with our mum. She would still make us unravel an old jumper and re-wind the wool so she could knit it up again.

Usually the clothes our mum created were sensible, hard-wearing and made from natural fibres. But when I was about six years old and invited to be the chief bridesmaid at my auntie’s wedding I got the dress of a life-time. Pink (naturally) with tiny, deeper pink flowers sprigged all over the fabric; gathered in at the waist into a full skirt; a matching pink satin sash tied round the middle into a big bow at the back; and two sticking out petticoats underneath that gave it the typical fifties look. And, it was made out of nylon.

Invented in the U.S.A. in the late 1930s and used extensively throughout World War Two for military purposes (parachutes and nylon stockings come to mind), nylon hit the fashion headlines in the mid-fifties. The new wonder fabric: easily washed; non-iron; stylish and bang on trend.

Nylon frocks! All little girls wanted a nylon frock and I was no exception. My bridesmaid dress and co-ordinating bouquet were a delight. It’s a pity the wedding was in early April on a cold, wet, grey day and, as the nylon fabric had as much warmth as a plastic carrier bag, we bridesmaids had to wear our winter coats on top of the frocks.

We always had sandals for the summer: usually Clarks, usually brown but occasionally white; always with a T-bar; and always worn with white ankle socks.

Ankle socks in summer; knee socks in winter.

The socks were made out of cotton and to keep them sparkling white they got a boil wash and consequently they shrank in the foot and became increasingly uncomfortable.

The knee socks had elastic woven into the top to stop them falling down but that didn’t last long. So you had to get a piece of knicker elastic and tie it into a loop and use it as a garter. This worked quite well unless you made the loop too tight: then your circulation stopped and your leg started going blue. Tights weren’t invented until the 1960s so white, cotton socks were what we had to wear.

Cabbage and Semolina: Memories of a 1950s Childhood

Thanks for reading my update and, as I said earlier, I’d love to know what you were looking for when you landed on my blog. Have a good day. 🙂

By Catherine Murray

I'm trying to write a blogpost every day, hence 3sixtyfive blog.

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