Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Guest Post - Ralph from Shybiker

Ralph and I are part of a guest blogger group that Ashley from 2 Eyes in the Mirror set up!! Every month we both are partnered up with a fellow blogger and we post on each other's blogs.  I was elated to be paired with Ralph (he runs Shybiker) because we have recently just gotten to know each other better and now I get to collaborate with him for posting, yay!!
Ralph is one of my favorite followers and I look forward to his comments everytime I post.  And let me tell you, he NEVER misses a post!! If you have not visited his blog, check him out HERE.
If you want to join our guest blogger group, please let us know or you can get in touch with Ashley and we will hook up up!
We decided that Ralph would do a post on the fashion in the 50's era since this style has become so popular especially since the popular show Mad Men aired! So, without further ado, here is Ralph's post:

Hi!  I'm Ralph.  Angela is kindly allowing me to guest-post and I promise to make this worthwhile.  I respect Angela's blog and will honor it with my best effort.

To make this discussion special, I did some research on our shared love for fashion.  Let me convey what I learned and invite your comments.  We're going to explore women's fashion from the 1950's.

Many people recently had their interest piqued in this period by the terrific TV show, "Mad Men."  The costumes made for that show are authentic to the time and display a full range of women's clothing, from domestic outfits to businesswear to fancy evening dress.

One important reason to study fashion styles of the past is their influence on the present.  Just last year, First Lady Michelle Obama wore a vintage dress from the Fifties to a formal "Christmas In Washington" concert.  Her dress, designed by Norman Norell, was actually made during the Fifties and stored, unworn, since then.

Current designers, too, borrow styles from the Fifties.  For example, the attractive dress shown here was created recently by Marc Jacobs: it draws on classic Fifties style so much that you can't tell whether it was designed then or now.

So what was Fifties fashion?  To understand it, we should look at changes that occurred in American society at the time.  The decade preceding the Fifties had our country fightingWorld War II.  The war-effort made resources scarce and life hard.  There was rationing of food and materials and widespread austerity.  It was a difficult time to live through.

After victory in 1945, American society began a prolonged stretch of economic prosperity, coupled with a shift to newly-developed suburban homes.  These two factors made life better for most people and the improvements began to show in fashion styles.  Women's clothing changed from utilitarian to decorative with increased femininity and glamour.  Elegance returned, with Hollywood leading the way.  Celebrities wore fancier clothes that hadn't been seen in decades.  Ordinary women picked up trends they saw in movies and magazines; their adoption of those styles popularized the clothes throughout the country.

Famous designer Christian Dior created a "New Look" at the beginning of the Fifties which celebrated the birth of a new era.  The masculine, wide-shouldered silhouette of the 1940's was replaced by a feminine, hourglass silhouette emphasizing female curves.

Girls wore "swing skirts" with narrow waists and flared skirts.  Here, they are displayed in an advertisement from the time.

Shoulder lines softened, new attention was placed on the waist, and busts were emphasized with uplifting and even pointed bras.  Another feature, revived from the 1920's, was sleevelessness.  Sleeveless dresses and blouses were worn all four seasons.

Materials changed, too.  Silk and velvet become popular, along with light transparent fabrics like organdy and chiffon.  Pastel colors were worn during the day and gray tulle in every shade was ubiquitous during evenings.  Another material which always symbolized luxury -- fur -- jumped in popularity, along with the first fake-furs.  Stoles were worn around the shoulders over elegant dresses.  Leopard-print was a rage during the Fifties.  Petticoats were common and facilitated the style of fitted waists and flared skirts.

Makeup changed, too.  The most popular new trend in makeup was to highlight eyes with eyeliner and mascara, which created a look that was quickly adopted and spread everywhere.

The Fifties also included the advent of television, the beginning of the "Baby Boom" and the growing culture of middle class suburbia.  These developments affected the lives of women.  The Fifties created a nesting period that was unprecedented.  Women were encouraged to marry and stay at home.  The image of the happy housewife was spread by advertising of the time.  Magazine articles focused on domesticity in a positive light.  In hindsight, some of these developments seem retrograde but, in historical context, they marked a general improvement in the economic and social circumstances of most women.  Life in middle-class suburbs promoted childrearing and provided material luxury previously unknown.

It is easy, but inaccurate, to label the Fifties a time of Procrustean conformity.  In 1953, seeds of feminism were sown when Simone de Beauvoir published "The Second Sex."  And statistics show significant improvement in the conditions of many women's lives.  For example, the number of women enrolled in college doubled during the Fifties and employment for women rose four times as fast as the rate for men.  Society changed during this decade, in ways both good and bad.  We shouldn't simplify that complexity with a historically-incomplete label.

Let me close with an amusing observation I made while doing research for this post.  I recently bought an adorable Jessica Simpson dress that I posted on my blog.  A week later, I saw that Elizabeth Taylor wore a dress to the 1958 Academy Awards ceremony which has the exact same collar!  Here are the two dresses.  Their similarity illustrates the continuing relevance of Fifties fashion to today.

Thank you Ralph for the fabulous post AND such an intense explanation of the history of 50's fashion.  You are amazing!!



Shybiker said...

Thanks, Angela, for the opportunity to address your readers. Your blog is so great!

freeda said...

Love it, even when I had to google procrustean! (sp?)

Now to explore this blog...

Elissa said...

What a fantastic post! It's interesting to consider how much of an effect the end of WWII had on fashion, as the turn away from utilitarianism and towards femininity in Dior's New Look illustrates.

Thank you for such an interesting post! I love the fifties silhouette and enjoy learning more about that decade.

Lorena said...

I did not expect less from Ralph.
Very, very well done.

Ashley said...

Fab post! Very intriguing and interesting! I learned a few things, too. I didn't know about the make-up of the fifties. Hmm! This is a great time to do a post on 50's fashion, what with the Mad Men craze I see everywhere (I still have yet to see an episode, though).

Collette Osuna said...

Im in this challenge too...just have to DO the actual guest post...too too busy lately....great post...Im in LOVE with this era....right up my alley.....great job!

Stop by and say Hello:)
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Brianna said...

Great job Ralph! :)

The Closet Shopper said...

Fantastic post. I love Ralph. Isn't he amazing? And what an amazing lesson on 50's fashion. I didn't know that about Michelle Obamas' Christmas dress. It's absolutely stunning on her.

Ashley rocks for putting this together.

Jodi said...

I LOVE this post.. and I love that the 2 of you get to be paired up... ME JEALOUS..!! LOL... so great!! and I really love how ShyBiker has taken the time do research this. Michelle Obama's dress is so awesome that is neat it was left so long and now she gets to wear it. AND RALPH... I LOVE that dress on you.. its gorgeous. .the cut, the pattern and the fit on you.. its all perfect!!

I love the 50s clothes too since they especially are good for my body type -- higher waisted and for people with HIPS yeah baby!!

Dear Girl said...

oh, i love the old fashion era...thanks for sharing this..this is something i die for.=)
You became one of my 40-day favorite bloggers post.

Blah Blah Becky said...

Cute post, I love the femininity of fifties fashion. I just ADORED that dress that Michelle Obama wore.

Eda ♥ said...

I love these dresses, fabulously fifties and feminine ♥

*following your blog*

Eda ♥

Catita said...

Great work from Ralph! And Elizabeth looks great, those pictures from the 50's are so glamorous!
PS: THE LEGGINGS ARE FROM HUE. I googled it and they have an online shop which ships to your home!

Beauty Addict said...

Thanks Ralph! You post was awesome!!

Confessions of a Beautyholic

jill815 said...

Thank you for this informative post. I love stuff like this!

silvergirl said...

great post
love learning a bit of history
of course the 50's seem ultra glam due to Mad Men and now I am happy to know some details about it all.
Thanks Ralph

She is Sara said...

Ralph you did such a good job on this post! I am loving all the research you put into it. I loved Michelle Obama's dress when I saw it, and low and behold! It's vintange?! :)

Jennifer Fabulous said...

Wow, I really enjoyed this post a lot! I learned so much from it. I have always been a big fan of 1950s fashion, so I found all these facts so interesting. Elizabeth Taylor is definitely one of the main movie stars who comes to mind when I think of this decade. (And of course, Grace & Audrey!).

A few years ago, I bought a 1950s dress pattern from an antique store and my mom made it for me. What I love about the dresses is that they are very slimming. I think the tight waistline and the big puffy skirt gives the illusion of an hourglass figure, which I appreciate. Lol.

And I had no idea the First Lady's black dress was unworn from the 50s! That is really cool. :)

Great guest post!

Stel said...

Wonderful post and such fantastic research. Really well writen too :)

Dahl said...

Great post! Ralph seems really cool and I'll have to check out shy biker. oooh fifties fashion is amazing, I love the swing skirts. Man if only they were still that cheap! said...

I can see how much time you might have out into this post. Very well written! 50's is right now the era of the season ... Thanks Ralph, for informing me about many things I had no idea.

Amber Love said...

What a fantastic look back! I'm enamored by how women must not have been comfortable doing mundane things like cooking.

Emma at Daily Clothes Fix said...

I love 50s style, it's just so flattering. Thanks for the fascinating insight into the history, Ralph. I always think it's so interesting how events and culture influence style.

classiq said...

Great post!

Brittany said...

wow so awesome! love this post!

Tinfoils Tiaras said...

What an amazing fashion history lesson! Shybiker really injects so much passion into each post that it makes it enjoyable to read. And now I know Shybiker's name- Ralph! xo Emily

LyddieGal said...

I definitely enjoy the full skirts of the 50's, so cute and fun to wear.

Chic on the Cheap

Freast said...

LOVE YOUR STYLE AND LOVE THIS BLOG! following! pleasefollow us if you fancy it!


Lori said...

I love this post. I love learning about the history behind fashion.

Jenarcissist @ the closet narcissist said...

I loved reading this...such a good writer. :) And I enjoyed the pics too. Such a glamorous time in women's fashion!! 50s styles seem to flatter just about anybody.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the stupid question. What is the best search engine or

So Good for Bunnies said...

Love it! Great research! :)

Anonymous said...

WOW!! great post!! loving the reading about how those beautiful dresses comes from! I'm in love with the full skirt right now! I guess thank to mad men we all obsessed with it

QueenDesi said...

i'm totally love this 50's trend..
i'm such a huge fan of petticotaed skirt!!


in Love&Light
Queen D