1950s evening dresses

(Not currently on display)

A coral pink halterneck dress with a lace overlay

Evening dress, rayon satin, overlaid with net and lace, trimmed with chiffon, with matching stole, made by Mandell Couture, London, about 1959. Gift of Mrs J De Ritter, 1982.

For the fashion conscious woman the 1950s was an exciting period. It was a far cry from the war years of the 1940s when clothing had been rationed and regulated. During the 1950s, the development of man-made fibres meant the consumer had more choice than ever before. More efficient factory production methods and the increase in ready-to-wear outfits meant that clothing became more affordable. Everyone could now buy mass produced copies of the latest trends from the fashion houses of Paris or London. The preferred female shape was curvy and very feminine with wasp waists and wide skirts over many underskirts.

By the end of the 50s, people had more money to spend and more time to enjoy themselves than ever before. Social activities such as ballroom or Latin American dancing, and later rock and roll for the young, were popular. The dance halls were places where you could aspire to some of the glamour of your favourite film or singing stars. For the well-to-do there were cocktail parties and other social events. Whatever the occasion, the fashionable 1950s woman had to be perfectly groomed and display effortless elegance.