During the 1950s holiday parties happened all month long. They included everything from Company dinners and dancing, Club/organization award dinners, to neighborhood parties. If the evening wasn’t a Black tie affair, dress was “Cocktail” or “After Five”. A great deal of time was spent by both men and women in preparing their holiday outfit. Many women made their outfits for the occasion or re-designed old dresses. Suburbanites who had jobs in the city but lived in the “burbs” realized they didn’t need to travel to the city in order to enjoy the holiday season. Simple to lavish affairs were planned in neighborhoods and by organizations in their local area. Still, fashion was important, regardless of where they live
Men of the ’50s were polished head to toe with stylish hats, suits, handkerchiefs, coordinated ties, socks and Wingtip shoes. Suits were slim fitting and skinny ties were the1950s fashion. Men pulled out the jewelry: collar bars, lapel pins, cufflinks, tie clips and most important…a watch. Many wore some of it or all depending on the event.
Women also followed the trend of the day with dresses that were cinched at the waist and dramatic necklines. In an effort to look coordinated, parures (matching sets of jewelry) were popular. These pieces were designed to be worn as a set. The women wore matching earrings, necklaces, bracelets, pins and rings. They strived for the “coordinating” look.
(Note: My mother-in-law, who lived overseas, was a “fashionista” of her time, 40s, 50s, 60s. Her strategy was to make or buy an evening dress that was full and long. Each year (with the help of fashion magazines) she would re-shape the dress by making the skirt less full, changing the sleeve and the neckline. The original dress was reshaped up to five times and they were beautiful each time.
As a youth, I lived in Long Island, New York in the 1950s, and my mother and several neighbor women did the same thing with store-bought evening dresses to keep within the yearly budget. This is how important fashion was in the 1950s.)
Everyone paid a great deal of attention to the coats they wore when they arrived at parties. After all, that was the first thing people saw when you stepped through the door. Full swing coats were popular for women, depending on where you lived and the temperature. Men wore full length coats. And again, the coats, for both sexes, were accessorized, i.e., pins, corsages or boutonnieres of artificial flowers, gloves, hat, etc.
After all, the holidays were the time to pull out all the stops.
Janet Elizabeth Lynn
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