Retro Chick Reviews: The 1950s Look

Back at the beginning of September I reviewed this books sister, The 1940s Look

At the time I promised you a review of the 1950s Look as well, and here it is! I do feel like I’ve been reviewing rather a lot of things lately, do you find them handy or would you rather I got back to posting more pretty pictures of frocks?

Anyway, on with the show!

This book was bought for me as a gift, and I liked it so much I went on to buy the 1940s Look for myself.


The 1950s Look is a genuinely excellent and comprehensive little book for those of you interested in the styles of the 1950s.

One of the most useful things to me about it was that it allowed me to whittle down my style interests. I love the looks of the 1930s and the 1940s austerity styles appeal to me for their resourcefulness, but the 1950s, well, we have a bit of a love hate relationship. Sometimes the 1950s is appealingly classic, feminine and stylish, sometimes it is twee, overblown and technicolour.

What this book helpfully does is go through the 1950s year by year, defining what styles returned, what were new to the world and what went out of fashion. Following the austerity of the war years the 1950s were a decade of changing styles for women as they rediscovered fashion and frivolity. This means that “50s style” began with Diors post war “New Look” in 1947, but then encompassed an entire range of styles from shapeless sack dresses to skin tight pencil skirts before moving towards boxier styles, headbands and beehives as the swinging 60s approached.

This means I can pretty much use this book to chart the point at which my interest in 50s fashion ends (around 1955, when the waist disappeared,  just so you know!)

Detailed chapters on hats, gloves, belts, glasses and jewellery are handy to those who want to get the details right. There are also some handy crochet patterns reprinted that might be of use to those of you that know how to crochet (I don’t, so for all I know they are useless!)

Like it’s sister book The 1950s Look provides some insight into the economic and domestic situation of the times by using quotations and references from contemporary sources, for instance, in 1952 noted artist Sir William Russell Flint wrote to The Times complaining about young women wearing sunglasses claiming that they

“Not only hide but weaken their illustrious orbs, reduce their chances of conquest, and cause deprivation to the male population.”

Oh for the days when men cared whether they could see your EYES…..

The female figure in the 1950s was, of course, a part of the look. The book devotes an entire chapter to how it was achieved, including exercise tips, foundation garments, and, depressingly, a chart with ideal weight and height ratios and figure measurements (I need to lose a full 4 inches off my waist to fit in with the chart. Hmm, no more pies for me)

As well as the handy tips, the book is, naturally, packed with gorgeous eye candy. Contemporary fashion shots, advertising and family snaps fill it’s pages so you can spend hours just ogling the gorgeous nipped waist suits and full skirted frocks.

Due to the transitional nature of the 1950s, from post war austerity at one end to the swinging 60s at the other I genuinely think there’s something in this book for lovers of vintage style from the 1940s right through to the 60s. If you haven’t yet bought the 1940s Look, then I actually recommend this one first. It has far more of a “book about the look” feel, rather than a social history guide, mostly due to the fact that fashion in the 50s was less necessity and more frivolity!

This book, and others I’ve reviewed are available in my book shop

Note: I am an Amazon affiliate, if you buy the book through one of my links I’ll earn a few pennies. It costs you nothing and in no way affects my opinions on this book!