One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways of changing the style of an outfit is through the use of 50s accessories. Today I shall be looking at 1950s accessories, and where to find them.
Accessories have always played a key role in the creation of any outfit; from antiquity to modern day. A simple matching color combination can help to make an outfit look ‘put together’, whilst a statement necklace can add a touch of quirky individuality to even the plainest outfit.
The 1950s saw a surge in the popularity and variety of accessories; with more choice than ever to add that finishing touch of color or finesse to any ensemble.
One of the most versatile accessories one can own, is a simple scarf. Printed or plain, silk or viscose, a scarf has a multitude of uses! Tie it around your neck for a chic daytime look – either with rockabilly denim Capri’s and a t-shirt, or for a more tailored look, wear it with a shirt and pencil skirt instead.
A scarf is every girl’s savior when the weather suddenly changes. Wear it over your head tied under the chin to help protect your ‘do from unpleasant weather. Or, if you are having a bit of a bad hair day (it happens to all of us); tie the scarf around your hair in a turban style. This is great for covering-up those pincurls too if your retro set is taking longer to dry than anticipated.
You could even simply tie the scarf around your purse chain, just to add a pop of color or pattern to an outfit. I own more scarfs than I can count, and I usually always have one stashed away in my handbag – just in case! As they are so light and fold down wonderfully, they can be popped into your purse ready for any occasion.
1950s Hair Flowers
Hair flowers had been popular for decades before the 1950s, but in the carefree days of this decade, they enjoyed a resurgence in popularity. Women wore their hair waved through the use of pincurl sets, with the most popular length of hair being the shorter styles favored by movie stars Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Doris Day. Longer hair was worn sleek in a page boy style, or swept into updo’s with decorative pincurls and rolls.
Hair flowers could be worn to add a pop of color and femininity to an outfit, they could also cleverly disguise any parts of the hairstyle that the wearer was less than happy with.
Wear just one hair flower, or choose a selection to wear together to create an impact! You could also wear them as brooches pinned onto clothing, just check that the back has a fixing to do this (or you could buy a pin fixing and attach it yourself).
Perhaps the one accessory that is guaranteed to evoke an age of elegance – gloves. During the 1950s, for daytime women mostly wore short wrist-length gloves. The color of the gloves nearly always coordinated with other elements or accessories worn. Women would often wear matching hat, purse and gloves together, with the shoes harmonizing in tone or color too. Learn more about the history of gloves.
Today, we perhaps only wear gloves during the colder months to keep our hands and fingers warm. But back in the fifties, gloves were worn during all weather – they were not merely a layer of clothing to perform a function, they were a symbol of status and decorum.
As gloves are rarely worn today, it is precisely for that reason that they can really add a wonderfully authentic touch to your vintage inspired outfit. For day gloves, look out for cotton or crochet fabrics. For evening, satins and velvets will add that finishing touch of elegance.
There is something about sunglasses that screams glamour, and as such, they are a wonderful accessory to add to your outfit. They create an allure of mystery, which we as humans find difficult to resist. Sunglasses as a fashion accessory only became popular over the past one hundred years, with the sweeping frame of the cat-eye becoming symbolic of the 1950s. Big white plastic frames started the decade off with drama. Green lenses were a major trend as well although tan and dark grey were also common. The cat eye shape sparkled with decorative designs in the upper corners and arms.
Shop for and learn more about the history of 1950s glasses and sunglass here.
As mentioned in the gloves section, purses were an important element in the 1950s woman’s outfit. Rather than just having the one handbag, women may have a number of different purses, each to co-ordinate with different outfits and accessories.
Some purses were the classic box style, large enough to encase the essentials, whilst the teenager of the time may favor a more unusual novelty style.
Today we may choose from a wide and varied selection of purses. There are some wonderful vintage inspired novelty style purses available, as well as the more formal structured classic styles. As in the 1950s, pick and choose your purse to best suit your outfit – and to ensure you are able to carry all your essentials with you!
One of the most important and identifiable elements of the 1950s silhouette, was the classic nipped-in waist. This was achieved not only through the use of clever structured undergarments, but also with the added cinch of belts.
Gowns of this era often had matching fabric belts, but belts could also be worn with pants, shorts, pencil skirts or circle skirts. Stretchy elastic belts were popular during this time, clipping into place at the front (or the back depending on how you may wish to wear it). Wide belts worn over the waistline also enhanced the classic mid century silhouette, either in neutral shades or contrasting bright hues.
To achieve a similar look today, wear a wide belt at the natural waistline, ensuring the top or sweater is tucked in. Read more about women’s belt history.
1950s Umbrellas and Parasols
During the 1950s a trend for parasols re-emerged, after growing in popularity during the beginning of the century. Paired with sunglasses, the parasol is the perfect summertime accessory.
Today, parasols can be fairly tricky to get hold of, but a regular umbrella will often suffice. Look out for bright prints and patterns that harmonize with your outfit, and also have a look at the handle – remember you may be carrying the parasol or umbrella for brief periods of time rather than holding it up.
Any outfit can be elevated from a plain ensemble, to a well put-together coordinated look with the use of just a few accessories! Have fun creating your perfect mid century style with these fabulous accessories.