Fifties Fashion Fix

Fifties Fashion Fix: Think Outside The Poodle

Bon Jour, mes amis! This edition of Fifties Fashion Fix will discuss the beloved skirt! We will explore the loveliness of the full and billowing fit and flair look of the fifties that made their skirts fun, romantic and memorable.

Alright now back to basics. The first thing people picture when they think of the 1950’s are poodle skirts. Well, one of the first things, anyway. A common overall misconception is that poodle skirts were the only thing girls wore in the 50’s, therefore, the only way to dress in the style of that era is to put a poodle skirt on. Not so! While poodle skirts were undeniably the main “Must Have” of any teenage girl in the 50’s, they were certainly NOT  not all young gals wore. As I said in my guest entry at The Past is Back, most of the time, gals just wore plain, calf-length cotton skirts, and wool in the winter. They did not wear poodle skirts to school (nor did they jump up and spontaneously burst into song and dance during class.) Poodle Skirts were mainly for an evening of dancing at the hop.

However, that does not mean that the poodle skirt was a strict dress code. Swing skirts took on many patterns. Some were plain, some had rick rack, zig zags, or other embellishments. Pretty much anything you can imagine can be applied to a swing skirt…

A Scottie dog…



A flamingo…


A pair of snails…


and, my personal favorite… A cat!


Swing skirts were usually made of a felt-like material that was light enough to dance in and wear a petticoat under. Today, I see that most swing skirts are being made of cotton, or some such cheap blend and that’s ok  because what choice do we have anyway? True vintage swing skirts that are good examples of the era and are in good condition are highly sought after by collectors and thus pricey… so keep that in mind if you’re searching for one. A better alternative would be to buy a swing skirt from a decent retro brand company. Although, I would definitely avoid the cheap, satin-like versions that they make costumes out of. They are usually feather-light, wrinkle easily and they look like costumes, even from far away.

The next kind of skirt from the era I’d like to discuss is the quilted skirt. I just recently discovered these retro cuties and I’m intrigued. It appears that these were mainly worn by young housewives, and they generally came in red, black, blue, plaid or any number of odd looking prints. The material makes them fall a certain way, so they always look full and don’t wrinkle. The quilting adds and extra bit of yesteryear charm. Still, they are not something you’d probably wear now, but they sure do harken back to the era.

An example of a house wife’s quilted skirt is seen in this 1952 ad for Westinghouse.


A favorite look of mine are the the lovely, full skirts with floral patterns that remind you of tea and biscuits in an English Garden. These are considered formal by our standards of today, but back in the 50’s women wore these for any occasion. Even a casual afternoon lunch called for a full, feminine skirt. Not all patterns were floral, of course, but florals were popular in keeping with the romantic, feminine look of the era.

Skirt by Ikebana available at Modcloth.

And guess what? Full skirts are making a comeback this summer! As you can read in my previous blog, Fifties Fashion Fix: Summer 2018! This allows us modern-day women of the 21st century to experience the elegance of the women of yesteryear- and still be in style!

One of my favorite retro companies is Hell Bunny Vixen, which is known for making its full, floral cotton-fabric skirts. They use actual buttons, (which is becoming more and more rare these days) so you can move the button over and adjust to fit your size. I also like the 2 layer skirt by Moon (aka the “Essential Elegance” midi skirt) offered at Modcloth. The 2 layers of cotton fabric automatically give you volume without a petticoat. Petticoats can send your outfit over the top– with their excess volume, you can end up looking like you’re going square dancing when you don’t really mean to. Plus they are cumbersome and take up a lot of space. Recently, I discovered a new company called Esley that makes light-weight skirts with the tulle already sewn in. They can easily be mixed and matched and they have enough volume without needing a petticoat. So try some built-in tulle and layers instead. The result? Perfectly retro with a modern fair!

Left: Skirt by Esley. Right: “Essential Elegance” skirt by Moon.

So remember when it comes to skirts of the 1950’s era: Think outside the poodle. A world of retro style awaits you.

Opinions are my own. I do not get paid to endorse any companies or brands.