We all know how crucial are accessories for accentuating our looks. They have been an important part of women’s fashion and are still so. Proper accessories could change the entire outlook of a man or woman. Not only for improving one’s outlook, but accessories were also worn as a mark of one’s sophistication and aristocracy. Most accessories were accessible to the upper-class people while a few could be afforded by lower-class ones. However, there were some basic accessories that women had to wear while going out. It didn’t matter what they wore unless they matched their dresses with proper accessories to give a complete look. In this article, we would take a detailed look into the major women’s accessories of the 1950s.
Women’s accessories during the 1950s
The fashion of the 1950s took the world out of the depressing war years and brought completely new ideas and concepts into the trends. Accessories were richer, dresses bigger, hairstyles more varied. Never have we seen so much emphasis put on women’s fashion. Women could perfectly enhance their outlooks by pairing their outfits with matching accessories and shoes. Going from top to bottom, these were the most popular women’s accessories during the 1950s:
- Shoes : Pump, Oxford saddle shoes, flats, etc.
- Hats : Large sun hats, pillbox, small hats, etc.
- Hair accessories : Bandanna, flower clip, headbands, headscarf
- Gloves : Some were simple, others were decorated
- Belts : For defining women’s waist
- Handbags : Lucite bags, straw bags, drawstring bags
- Jewellery : Earrings, necklaces, bracelets, pearls, brooches
- Makeup : We would now look into each of these accessories in detail.
1950s shoe styles
Shoes are perhaps the most important accessory. Matching shoes are of utmost importance to stand out from the rest. During the 1950s, women wore a variety of shoe styles. We have discussed some of the most prevalent ones below.
During the first half of the 1950s, court shoes, pump shoes, and opera heels were all the same. They had 4 inches tall, thin heels. The heels featured a small metal cap at their ends. Red was the most widely found colour for formal wear. But red being a bright colour was mostly worn to parties and events. The winklepicker was another variation of the opera pump. Featuring sharp, pointed, thin heels, they were the favourite of aristocratic women.
- Black and white saddle shoes
An iconic style of the 1950s was the classic black and white saddle shoe. The saddle Oxford shoe was white coloured, having a dark-colored band around the middle. During the 1950s, both men and women wore saddle shoes with casual wear. Mostly they were available in dual colour combinations like black and white blue and white, brown and white, etc. This two-tone combination was also seen in loafers, boots, pumps, and even flats. The saddle shoes looked best when paired with denim pants or skirts.
- 1950s sandals
The 1950s witnessed an explosion of strap designs and colour shades on sandals. Sandal straps were broad and narrow and had one or multiple buckles. There wasn’t one particular design available. Straps were mostly thin and toes were exposed. The ones that were specially meant for evenings featured the thinnest heels and exposed maximum foot skin. Sandals were made up of a variety of materials like woven straw, rope, raffia, etc. Others were made up of canvas, cotton twill, denim, etc. They often had decorated vamps, which made them look more attractive. Some of them were even washable.
A proper 1950s women’s look wasn’t complete without matching hair accessories. No women stepped out of their house without a hair accessory. There were plenty of them available in those days and each one had a particular occasion when it was to be worn. Women who didn’t want to wear a hat wore matching hair flower clip. As a result, they could flaunt their hairstyle and accentuate their look at the same time. Apart from this, 1950s bandannas, headbands, hair scarves were also popular hair accessories. Women also wore rhinestone headbands, jeweled side clips, and sparkling tiaras to evening parties and gatherings.
Hats were necessary to give a touch of sophistication to women’s looks. In those days, hats were found in a variety of shapes, styles, designs, and colours. Traditional styles were worn by the middle class and lower-middle-class women while newer designs with more detailed works were afforded by the aristocratic ones. We have enlisted some of the popular women’s hat styles of the 1950s:
- Flat hats
This was a staple style that was prevalent throughout the 1950s. These hats were thin, circular which came in a variety of colours and designs. Also, they had various names like tambourine hats, plate hats, or platter hats.
- Sun hats
By far the widest style of women’s hats were sun hats. Nearly every woman had this accessory. Earlier what was popular as the cartwheel hats came to be known as the sun hats during the 1950s. Extremely simple, these hats were made up of lightweight silk or straw and did their job well to protect women’s faces from the sun. These hats were a part of women’s daily wear during the decade.
- Flying saucer
Another unique style of hat was the flying saucer. They were also popularly known as coolie hats. These hats were shaped like flying saucers, as the name suggests. They had a broad bottom portion and tended to be round towards the top. Some even had long thin veils. These hats were roughly flat.
- Cloche hats
The 1950s cloche hats looked like bucket hats or a flower pot placed upside down with an angled brim. They featured textured furs or smooth surfaces and velvets to add dimension to the hat. The trim was minimum. A simple, thin ribbon band with Jewels, pins, brooch, or flatbow was attached on one side of the cloches. As the fashion progressed, cloches were seen having angular crowns and flat tops.
- Pillbox hats
These hats continued to be in fashion since the 1940s. These hats were round in shape and were a few inches tall. Pillbox hats looked best when paired with tailored suits. They had straight sides and a flat, slightly rounded top, covering the crown of the top or head. As the decade moves ahead, and fashion progressed, the depth of the crown increased to 4 to 5 inches tall.
Mostly, smooth textured berets were popular but with time buzzy berets became more preferred, through with time their popularity started to decrease. A few had bead works on them while others had small pearls scattered. Others featured a charming bow on the band. Berets were worn around the forehead and gave a framed look to women’s faces. Mostly popular among teen-agers, these were worn by young women too.
A matching handbag or purse added to the sophistication of women during the 1950s and hence was an iconic style during the decade. The novelty bags were manufactured using unusual materials like straw, plastic, fabric, mesh, etc. They also came in a variety of shapes like satchels, baskets, boxes, etc. Because of these unconventional styles and materials used, they had a lasting impression. A common feature of the 1950s handbag styles was their small size. Their size was just sufficient enough to hold a few important items as essentials women needed to carry. For evening parties, women carried small wrist strap or clutch bags, pairing with their sparkling black outfits. Now we would look into a few popular handbag styles of 1950s popular among women.
- Lucite bags
These bags were a bit expensive. They featured aquatic life decorations and beautifully carved florals besides having detailed works of jewels, glitters, confetti, etc. Hence these bags were of premium quality. They were found in shapes like buckets, boxes, pagodas, and beehives. However, women had to take extreme care of these bags because the heat could damage their shape. Lucite bags were brittle as well and hence had to be taken care of.
- Straw bags
A new design of summer bags developed during the 1950s called the Straw bags. These were ideal beach bags. They had a more manageable size and were charming in look. Mostly found woven with Raffia, straws, slats, and plastic, the straw bags also featured fruits, flowers, leaves, and a variety of other themes.
- Drawstring bags
Last of all the unique handbag designs popular during the 1950s is the drawstring handbag. These were made from crochet yarn or fabrics and were an important travel bag.
Gloves were another important accessory that women wore daily. They were long, elbow-length gloves sometimes simple and sometimes decorated. The decorated ones were worn to parties and gatherings while the simple gloves were worn for casual purposes. To enhance their look all the more, a few women matched the colour of their gloves to that of their outfits. For the aristocratic people, leather gloves were a popular choice. Mostly leather meant sheepskin, cowhide, deerskin. Gloves in those days were available in a vertical of patterns and designs, allowing women to choose matching ones. The style of the gloves was completely determined by the outfit of the women.
The purpose of wearing belts was the make women’s hips more pronounced. During the 1950s, belts were worn with practically every kind of outfit be it pants, suits, day dresses, long sweaters, etc. Sometimes women wore matching belts whereas sometimes they paired their outfits with belts of contrasting shades. Mostly belts were available in shades of white, black, or bright colours to attract everyone’s attention to their defined waists. Though wide belts are extremely popular nowadays, back in those days, women having heavier hips were advised not to wear small belts. Belts on those days were made up of stiff fabric, leather, and plastics.
During the 1950s, everyone wore sunglasses and eyeglasses. Even if people didn’t need them, they had to show their accessories off. Widely prevalent during those days was the cat-eye sunglass design, which had colourful plastic rims and a bit of glitter in their upper corners. They were found in a variety of shapes like hearts, squares, triangles, classic retro sound glasses, etc. These are so trendy that some of these vintage styled glasses are still available now.
Pearl necklaces were the most common form of jewellery found. Also, matching pearl stud earrings were worn with elegant outfits. Not only pearl jewellery designs, but also accessories in beadworks and stone works were also common in coral and turquoises colours. Flower themed necklaces and earrings were most preferred. Apart from these, bakelite bracelets were also worn. Women also wore large cocktail rings in fingers.
By now, you must have understood the varied fashion trends and styles prevalent during the 1950s. It was surely an era of aspirations. Women aspired to be nothing but perfect when it comes to looks. If these accessories helped them in their quest, then be it. You can easily spot 1950s vintage jewellery and accessories in local stores and online shopping applications. You can even go ahead to shop for some of your favourite styles. Make sure you check the quality and materials used before buying. Even better if you can grab some discounts. So keep looking for offers and shop them at affordable prices!