1950s Costume Ideas

Featured

The 1950s is often seen as a really great theme for a costume party or other event. Here are a few ideas for 1950s-orientated costumes, with a little background information. Just look at the left navigation as we break this rock and roll decade down into the main areas of Fashion, Music, Television and Films as this decade is a little diverse!.

The selection is not comprehensive or over detailed, but it may help give you some guidelines on how to work with the 1950s fancy dress theme.

In the UK, the 1950s may have started as a decade of austerity and rationing thanks to the aftermath of the Second World War, but it did not end up that way. The ten years from 1950 onwards, saw many social and cultural changes, to lead Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in 1959 to say that you’ve never had it so good! The American influence was everywhere, from music styles based on Rock n Roll and Jazz, to trends in radio and television.

Equally strong, however were the UK home-grown genres such as Skiffle and influences from the continent. The late 1950s saw the growth of social rebellion amongst the youth population, fuelled by young adults who now had their own disposable income and no wish to follow in their parents footsteps, in terms of dress and social activities.

1950s Television

TELEVISION OF THE 1950s

Television was still in its infancy in the 1950s. The BBC was the main programme provider until the mid-1950s, when the introduction of the first commercial TV station put paid to the BBCs monopoly. Many of the TV programmes were imported from the United States.

The Adventures of Robin Hood Richard Greene starred in this childrens drama from 1955-1958. Robin Hood and Maid Marion costumes are still a popular pairing, when it comes to fancy dress parties.

The Lucy Show – The American comedienne Lucille Ball was highly successful in a number of shows supposedly based around her family-life. She was a curly redhead, typically seen in a 50s polka-dot dress, and an official costume along these lines is available.

Mr Ed – A comedy show about a talking horse. Need we say more? We stock horse overhead masks and full costumes

My Favourite Martian – Not a little green man, but a conventional looking individual, save for some antennae!

Flintstones – A bit of a cheat here, as the Flintstones as such did not appear until 1960. However, in 1959 a pilot programme with similar characters The Flagstones was shown.

Westerns: A major staple of TV Shows included Wagon Train, The Lone Ranger, The Cisco Kid, Laramie, Gunsmoke and Rawhide, which gave Clint Eastwood his first major acting role. We stock a wide range of western accessories including full cowboy and indian costumes, cowboy hats, spurs and indian headdresses.

Other 50s television programmes include:

  • Billy Bunter – wear a schoolboy costumewith padding!
  • Blue Peter, great if your name is Peter, just wear blue clothing a paint your face blue with our face paint.
  • Crackerjack, if your name is Jack, just cover yourself in crackers!!!
  • Ivor The Engine
  • Muffin The Mule
  • Pinky & Perky – wear a pig costume
  • Noddy – hier costumes available
  • The Railway Children
  • Watch With Mother
  • Sir Lancelot, wear a Knight’s Costume
  • Sooty
  • Superman – our Superman outfits are available to purchase, or hire
  • The Benny Hill Show – a celebrity mask is available
  • The Black & White Minstrel Show – not very PC!
  • Dixon Of Dock Green
  • Phil Silvers Show – wear an American GI costume

1950s Films

1950s Movies

Movies released during the 1950s are a great source for your 1950s costumes and also gives some variety to the costumes that everyone wears.

When searching for fifties costumes on the Internet, you may find the selection dominated by Grease outfits. Although this highly popular film was made in the 1970s, it is set in a High School of 1950s America and there are a number of official costumes, wigs and accessories on the market.

For obvious reasons during the 1950s, war films (except Bridge over the River Kwai) were out. Westerns were popular, but double features and Sci-fi movies captured the public imagination. There was also Horror, some in 3D (House of Wax). Rising stars included Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. Unfortunately James Dean’s promising career was ended by his untimely death in a car accident.

Looking through our list of 1950s films should give you some inspiration and allow you to dress up in a great costume. follow the links through to various section sof our site to see some of the products that we stock.

1950s MOVIE GENRES CARTOON & ANIMATION
Sleeping Beauty (1959) – Disneys retelling of the classic fairy-tale featuring Princess Aurora who falls foul of the wicked sorceress Maleficent.

Tom & Jerry – Commonly associated with TV these days, this cat and mouse duo entertained cinema audiences during the 1950s. Even after MGM shut its cartoon studios, they continued to do so, thanks to artists Hanna & Barbera who would create other memorable characters, such as the Flintstones and Yogi Bear in the 1960s.

1950s MOVIE GENRES CHICK FLICKS/ROMANCE
Roman Holiday (1953) A bored princess escapes for some fun with a journalist. Starring Gregory Peck with a first role for Audrey Hepburn.

1950s MOVIE GENRES COMEDY
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe as singers, with Monroe doing the famous Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend number in the pink gown.

Harvey (1950) James Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd, a man with a six-foot invisible rabbit, as a friend.

(The) Man in the White Suit (1951) Alec Guinness as the man in the white suit, who invents a fabric, which never wears out.

(The) Seven Year Itch (1955) Monroe film featuring the classic white pleated dress over the air-vent scene.

Some Like It Hot (1959) – Two men, witnesses to the St Valentines massacre, hide in a female music group. Classic comedy starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe

1950s MOVIE GENRES DRAMA
(The) Greatest Show on Earth (1951) Circus-based spectacular featuring Tony Curtis.

Moulin Rouge (1952) A film about the venues patron, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, than the venue itself.

Sunset Boulevard (1950) A star of the silent movies seeks to make a comeback.

1950s MOVIE GENRES FANTASY
Alice in Wonderland (1951) Walt Disney brought a highly colourful cartoon version of the popular Lewis Carroll story to the movie screen.

Forbidden Planet (1956) Interplanetary adventure based on Shakespeares The Tempest. Notable for Leslie Nielsen in a straight role and Robbie the Robot, later to be seen in 1960s TV series Lost in Space.

(The) Seventh Seal (1957) Enigmatic Swedish movie of morals featuring a chess-match with Death.

1950s MOVIE GENRES HEROES OF 1950s MOVIES
Marlon Brando Before he became associated with the Godfather series of films from the 1970s, Marlon Brando had a number of classic films from the 1950s onwards. The era included Julius Caesar (Roman outfit), The Wild One (Classic Motorbike outfit,) Guys and Dolls and On the Waterfront.

James Dean – Classic films were East of Eden, Giant and Rebel without a Cause. Jeans, white t-shirt and brown bomber jacket.

1950s MOVIE GENRES HORROR
Dracula (1958) – A pre-Hammer-Horror telling of the classic legend. A Dracula outfit is so easy to put together if you do not want to purchase, or hire, a complete costume

1950s MOVIE GENRES MUSICALS
Guys and Dolls (1955) Movie of the major stage musical about the gambler and the missionary, starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmonds and Frank Sinatra.

The King and I (1956) Film of the successful stage musical about an Englishwoman becoming governess to the children of the King of Siam.Wear one of our lovely ladies Victorian gowns, but this will be from our large hire range.

Singin in the Rain (1952) Musical starring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds.

1950s MOVIE GENRES WESTERNS, we stock a wide range of men’s western costumes, or take a look at our cowboy & indian accessories to make up your own costume at home

High Noon (1952) A lone sheriff stands up to outlaws terrorizing his town.

The Wild One (1953) Two motorcycle gangs terrorize a town. One of Marlon Brando’s major films.

1950s Leisure

LEISURE PURSUITS IN THE 1950s

In the 1950s, dancing was a major entertainment activity, especially with the new rock n roll music. In America, dance events were often called hops and there was a variation the Sock Hop- where the dance was held in school gyms and the participants had to dance without shoes to avoid damaging the floor. For females, typical sock hop wear was a blouse with full skirt (often supported by petticoats), sometimes with applique designs (such as poodle skirts). Before rock n roll became mainstream, different dance styles the Jitterbug, the Lindy-hop, the Shake etc. had generated variations on this basic dance-wear.

Whilst male hairstyles remained relatively conventional, although imitations of the Marlon Brando, James Dean or Elvis Presley look were also seen, female styles varied from the preppy ponytail through the classic flick-out to the development of the beehive.

In Britain Teddy Boys and Girls were the focus of attention, not always for the right reasons. The boys outfits long drape jackets with velvet facings and drainpipe narrow trousers- derived from Edwardian fashion (hence the name), which the girls adopted a loose and full-skirt ensemble similar to their American counterparts, but often in more colourful designs. The downside was the vicious and violent gang culture which arose.

Beatnik Whilst rock n roll was making all the headlines, other music styles such as jazz were also finding favour in the late 1950s. Aficionados favoured dark clothing turtle-necks, slacks, dark glasses, berets, with long cigarette holders also adding to the cool look. Many female beatniks favoured the short gamine hairstyle championed by stars such as Seberg and Hepburn.

Bowling/Bowling Ball/Skittle – Ten-pin bowling was a popular sport of the Fifties and bowling wear was just comfortable leisure wear usually slacks for the females. As a variation within this concept, costumes for bowling balls and skittle pins can be found on the market.

Cheerleaders – Cheerleaders are still very much with us and therefore require no real introduction or explanation.

Grease orientated -The official Grease costumes from the film offer a range of looks: T-Bird jackets, Pink Lady outfits (remember, Sandy was not a Pink Lady); Sandy (after the makeover), and Frenchy in Beauty School Drop-out mode.

Drive-In /Malt Shop Waitress – Pre-empting the current skimpy trend by many years, waitresses in food outlets tended to wear short-skirted uniforms with military-looking hats. Some even wore roller-skates!

Mickey/Minnie Mouse in Disneyland – Although Mickey and Minnie had been around for many years, 1955 saw the opening of Disneyland in California.Walt Disney used the new television media to promote his characters and films.

Prom King/Queen – Coloured tuxedos and pretty prom gowns (with corsage) are the look here.

1950s Fashion

FASHION OF THE 1950s

When it comes to fashion, Decades do not always tend to fit in nice ten-year segments. Following the end of World War II, clothes rationing was still in force in the UK. Although, it technically ended in March 1949, clothes were still in short supply until the early 1950s. The fashions of the fifties had strong American connections, and some fashions carried on into the early 1960s.

The main looks to come out of the 1950s were:-

Blond Bombshell The original Blond Bombshell was actress, Jean Harlow, who earlier in the century paved the way for the platinum blond look, which became very much a part of the 1950s. The most iconic blond bombshells of the period included Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Diana Dors & Lana Turner.

Cocktail Dresses A return to glamour was epitomised by knee length Cocktail Dresses with nipped in waist. Many were based on the New Look.

Evening Dresses Long, flowing gowns were often worn for dinner parties and evening wear. Think Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe

New Look Christian Dior was responsible for the New Look. He showcased it in 1947, where it scandalised certain members of the public, due to the amount of material used. The nipped in waist was counteracted with yards of material and underskirts for that full look.

Pin-up The counterpoint to the New Look was the straight pencil skirt image, with a slit up the back to allow the wearer to walk, and tight fitting top. Think Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe.

Preppie Look As epitomised by Sandy in Grease.

Sack Dress Cristbal Balenciaga brought in the Sack Dress during the 1950s. This was a straight tubular dress, which counteracted Diors New Look and was the forerunner of the 1960s shift.

Teddy Boy & Teddy Girl Worn by the teenage generation, the Edwardian look made a comeback, but with more brightly coloured jackets, worn with black drainpipe trousers, white shirts and bootlace ties.

Twin Set & Pearls A popular look for the Fifties housewife. The twinset consisted of a top with matching cardigan and string of pearls, usually worn with a straight skirt.

1950s Hairstyles – Whilst male hairstyles remained relatively conventional, although imitations of the Marlon Brando, James Dean or Elvis Presley look were also seen, female styles varied from the preppy ponytail through the classic flick-out to the development of the beehive.

FASHION HEROES OF THE 1950s
Audrey Hepburn Actress who first came to fame in the 1950s. Her gamine style look was much copied.

Christian Dior Fashion designer and inventor of the New Look, who died on October 23rd 1957.

Coco Chanel Fashion designer, who reinvented her original 1920s knitted wool suit during the 1950s.

Cristbal Balenciago Fashion designer whose Sack Dress, Baby Doll look and Cocoon Coat became iconic images of the 1950s and 1960s.

Grace Kelly Actress who became Princess Grace of Monaco. She was noted for her stylish looks both on and off the screen.

Princess Margaret Sister of the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth (1953), Princess Margaret became a style icon of the 1950s.