The 1950s decade was the first that embraced women wearing shorts for more than just beach wear or for pinup girls. Women’s 1950s shorts came in several lengths and styles to fit a variety of leisure activities women enjoyed. The shortest length was the short short, followed by an above the knee Bermuda, below the knee pedal pushers, and the capri which was somewhere between a short and a pant. Each of these had other names as well. The origins and history of each 1950s shorts style is a fascinating one.
1950s Short Shorts
The shortest of the 1950s shorts were “short shorts.” These came to about 6 inches above the knee and had classic 1950s high waists and side zippers. These shorts were mostly worn on the beaches or on pin up models. Another name for these shorts is culottes. Culottes could be short or a bit longer and hade wide leg openings that flared out from a tight waist and hip.
These are the most popular style short worn by vintage retro clothing fans today. The high waisted short slims the tummy and creates a thinner waist than low rise shorts. The short length of legs makes them sexy (that is, if you have the thighs for it!).
As the decade progressed, short shorts grew shorter and tighter. Many were worn with matching belts, too.
1950s Bermuda Shorts
The most popular shorts length for women was the Bermuda Short. These came to about 3 inches above the knee, again with high waists and side zip seams. They could fit rather loose and baggy, just like pedal pusher pants, or more fitted and slimming (much like Bermuda shorts available today).
Shorts often did not have pockets (they added to much bulk to a slim silhouette) but some had ornamental or faux pockets that were angled slits. The ad above is an example of shorts with angled pockets.
1950s Pedal Pushers
The longest 1950s shorts could also be called pants. Pedal pushers, also known as clam diggers, toreador pants, motor scooter slacks, calypso pants, and pirate pants, all came to just below the knee with either wide straight legs or cuffed bottoms. These short pants were developed for cyclists who wanted the comfort of shorts and the safety of pants that wouldn’t tangle in bicycle chains.
It was popular among teens to roll up their jeans into the pedal pusher length. Many jeans came pre-rolled as well, making the pedal pusher shorts/pants common among women as well. Read more about 1950s pants styles.
All 1950s shorts were inspired by casual sport and travel wear with materials suitable for warm weather days. Cotton and synthetic “wrinkle free” fabrics were the most popular. Solid, tropical colors like lime green, sherbet orange, and Caribbean blue were in demand as well as checks and prints in the same color family. Think “tacky tourist” clothing, and you are not far off from ’50s summer fashion.
It was very common for women to buy a four piece matching clothing set with shirt, long pants, peddle pushers, and culotte shorts. This way women always had a matching outfit to wear for all kinds of weather. If shirts didn’t match, they were usually a light colored short sleeve or sleeveless blouse.
1950s Style Shorts
What 1950s shorts do you want to wear? Here are some new vintage 1950s inspired shorts for your vintage wardrobe: