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Looking At The Impacts Of Fashion On Society Cultural Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 1563 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The 1950s were a fascinating time in the United States that left an impressive mark on our society. Fashion during this unforgettable time was extremely imaginative and expressive, and overtime evolved into iconic images that are repeatedly replicated in fashion today. The now famous styles are historical icons in our culture that are recognized by the majority of Americans. The fashion of the 1950s is very memorable to our society because it was, rebellious, captivating, and unique.

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The 1950s are often thought of as a time with conservative families who had well-behaved children that listened to their parents’ rules, and lived in cookie cutter suburban communities. While for many this was true, there was also a great deal of teenage rebellion that came out of this era. “As the 1950s opened, America’s adolescents were basically a conservative, unrebellious lot.” [1] At the very start of the 1950s teens idolized the same older generation figures as their parents, so factors for a rebellion were simply not there. However, in the early part of the decade younger idols arose and new cultural factors began the start of a teenage rebellion and, “By the late fifties America’s teenagers had acquired a distinct subculture of their own. They had their own money, music, movies, television shows, idols, clothing, and slang. [2] They had found their own fashions and they centered on casual dress, instead of the upright fashion of older generations. This rebellion was easily expressed through exciting new fashions that had never been seen before. These styles became a vital aspect to the 1950s era that are now recognized and imitated in the fashion world today. The fresh clothing ideas for teenage girls included, rolled-up jeans, full dresses with crinolines, skirts paired with sweaters, casual blouses, blazers, tube dresses, sack dresses, two-piece bathing suits, and brown and white saddle shoes. High school boys were regularly seen in sport shirts, denim jeans with rolled-up cuffs, baggy pegged pants, pleated rouge trousers with a white side stripe, V-neck sweaters, slacks with back buckles, button-down striped shirts, blazers, and loafers. [3] Favorite color pallets and designs incorporated into these styles were polka dots, dramatic bright colors, and pale pastel colors. [4] One of the up-and-coming teen idols was “Rebel without a Cause,” James Dean, whose iconic look consisted of a white tee shirt and sport jacket. [5] This role model led to the same age group of boys showing their own rebellion through a tough attitude, black leather jackets, jeans, and tee shirts with rolled sleeves to hold cigarette packs. This highly rebellious crowd became known as “Greasers,” a very recognizable subculture.

To continue, style in the 1950s was captivating for many Americans of the time. While the style of the rebellious teens is sometimes the spotlight of Fifties fashion, older generations also embraced new fashion ideas. “Americans in the 1950s were caught up in many popular fads. Perhaps to take their minds off the looming threats to America’s Security…” [6] In 1950 popular fashion designer Christian Dior created designs for his concept of the “New Look,” and it quickly became the epitome of fashion for women at the time. His model emphasized an hourglass shape (still popular today), skintight tailoring, narrow waist, and a full flared skirt. Along with this latest fashion ideal, it was also popular for Fifties women to wear fashion staples such as, stiletto heels, bright red lipstick, hats, and gloves. In the 1950s it was common for women to be housewives, but many were also working outside the home, “Although women’s roles were changing, the most popular fashions of the 1950s emphasized women’s femininity and sexuality.” [7] Overall, for women a look of professional feminism was portrayed, but with young girls a more fun look was trendy. The most memorable of these looks was that of the “bobby soxers,” consisting of two-tone saddle shoes, ankle socks, white shirts, soft sweaters, neck scarves, and poodle skirts. Poodle skirts are a staple of the 1950s that were frequently worn to Sock Hops and were, “full circular skirts decorated with felt patches of well-coiffed French poodles and were the fashion rage for teen girls.” [8] A sense of style was even welcomed by young children because of the popularity of Western television shows; therefore, children would often mimic the look of their favorite cowboy. [9] Even male fashion began to take a more attractive and less stiff turn, clothing such as smart suits, sports jackets, and trousers with permenant creases. [10] In conclusion, the 1950s’ appealing fashion gave women a look of sophisticated feminism, gave men a look of relaxed professionalism, and gave younger generations a look of carefree fun.

Finally, it is easy to observe that the clothing styles and fashions of the generations were unique to the time, but conformity was also an accepted idea at the time as well. Even the most self-expressive group desired to fit it, “Teenagers were also very conformist: They were very concerned about what their friends thought of their dress, behavior, and ideas, and they tried very hard to be part of the group and not be labeled an oddball or individualist.” [11] It could be surmised that the reason for this need to be the same through fashion may have stemmed from the emerging suburban lifestyle in the United States, which was all about conformity through appearance. Therefore, fashion during the 1950s was most often not about being an individual with your own personal style, it was based off of being apart of a universal style. The fashions were so highly received that they could be seen on almost everyone of the decade. For example, powerful businessmen of the time sported the infamous gray flannel suits, which were paired with narrow brimmed hats. [12] As a result of televisions invading homes, and movie theaters growing, admiration of stars like Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn, added to the aspiration to achieve a trendy look of glamorous sophistication and elegance. [13] Of course, there were exceptions to the conformity ideal, and these groups were known as The Beatniks. These were citizens who detested conformity and separated themselves from the popular fashions by wearing black turtleneck sweaters, blue jeans, and sandals for men and black leotards and short skirts for women. Ironically, the style that they developed to protest being the same became a conformity in itself. [14] To sum up, even though 1950s fashion could be vastly conformist, the styles themselves were definitely unique and something that the country had never experienced, but quickly loved and would continue to adore for generations to come.

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In conclusion, the fashion of the 1950s was filled with blends of trendy, relaxed, fun, elegant, and sophisticated styles. The original fashions of this beloved decade are still treasured in society today, and these fashions are often still imitated in various styles in the fashion world. Because 1950s fashion was rebellious, captivating, and unique, it has evolved into a memorable part of history that will always have an element of current fashions for years to come. “The Fifties style sums up everything that is flattering, does not appear to be a contrived fashion statement, and shows classic good style.” [15] 


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