5 types of ‘50s vintage dresses to look out for

The ‘50s certainly provides plenty of source material for those inspired by vintage dresses, and there’s no question that there are many different styles of vintage dress from this key decade that simply have to be explored by retro fashion aficionados.

So, whatever vibe you aspire to with your ‘50s vintage dresses, here’s a quick run-through of some of the styles that may help you to achieve it.

  1. ‘New Look’

Dior seized the fashion initiative in the early part of the decade with its New Look full-skirted dress that remains the most iconic ‘50s dress style among today’s fans of all things vintage.

The ‘New Look’ dress is characterised by a fitted bodice with a full circle or gathered swing skirt ballooning out from the natural waistline. The fullness was achieved by gathering or pleating up to six yards of lightweight fabric.

  1. Shirtwaist or housewife dress

One of the most popular variants of the full-skirted dress was the shirtwaist dress, also sometimes simply referred to as a shirtwaist.

These dresses incorporated a fitted button-down top, akin to a blouse, that ended at the waist. The buttons would continue until slightly below the waist to make getting in and out of the dress easier, while the bottom was completed with a full gathered/pleated or circle skirt.

  1. Hostess gown

Effectively a combination of a dress with capri pants, the hostess gown was a large circle skirt incorporating an opening down the front, revealing slim fitting capri or cigarette pants underneath.

These vintage dresses were immortalised by Lucile Ball in I Love Lucy, with generations of women having since come to adore this fashion that conveys both casualness and glamour – perfect for home entertaining.

  1. Coatdress

Another full-skirted option for the decade’s fashion-forward women was the coatdress, which was a bit like the shirtwaist, except that its styling resembled a long coat rather than a shirt.

The buttons on these dresses ran all the way down to the bottom of the skirt, and were often oversized. The collar was larger to create the impression of an overcoat, and there was no back zipper. Coatdresses were also sometimes marked out by slightly padded shoulders.

  1. Sheath dress

The sheath dress was one of the most iconic vintage dress silhouettes of the 1950s, and represented something of an opposite option to the full-skirted style.

Dior was, again, instrumental, producing slight variations of the sheath dress that are well-remembered today. The bodice was tailored, fitted and nipped in at the waist, as with a swing dress, but the skirt was fitted very closely to the body from the waist down.

There you have it – just five styles of vintage dresses to get you started on your ‘50s-inspired shopping trips. Remember that you can start searching for the best examples right now, by perusing the many sellers represented across our online retro marketplace here at RETRuly.