The 1950s Were The Underdog Of 20th Century Fashion & These TV Shows Prove It

From boat necks to headscarves.

When one thinks of the 1950s, fashion isn’t usually the first thing to spring to mind. The decade was largely defined by a distinct resettlement into ‘normal’ society post-war, priorities skewed far from the desire to make a style statement on the streets. 

Of course, we all know what came next. As the world settled into life post-war, the Swinging Sixties arrived with a modernised, leave-your-inhibitions-at-the-door approach to fashion. Shorter skirts, bolder palettes and a futuristic outlook made for an upheaval to the modest, traditional silhouettes of 1950. 

But to get to where it went, that fashion revolution needed a catalyst. And interestingly, perhaps subconsciously, defining trends of the fifties lay out the groundwork for what came in the decades to follow. 

In our humble opinions, the 1950s walked so the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s could run—the costuming in several beloved television series set in the fifties certainly highlight the feat for us visually. 

Here, we explore key 1950s trends as seen in historic television depictions, and their modern day counterparts to shop right now. 

The Crown: Structured plaid blazers 

(Credit: Netflix)

It’s been touted as a ‘French Girl’ staple, one that looks effortless, yet timeless in its form. The plaid blazer has been tried, tested and remained true over tens of decades, so when we saw Vanessa Kirby wearing the style almost at its very origin in The Crown‘s 1950s setting, you could say we were every bit convinced we needed our own version (if we didn’t have one already!). 


Bec + Bridge Franca Blazer ($500)


Maje Vicar Checked Jacquard Blazer ($272)

The Crown: Headscarves 

(Credit: Netflix)

Another 1950s staple nailed on the head by The Crown is the humble headscarf. 

Of course, they’re not exclusive to the fifties alone. In the years during and following the Second World War, women tended to wear headscarfs wrapped around their heads or necks. In the 60s and 70s, it became an icon of liberated style—fashioned as a bandana or to hold a ponytail in place. In 2021, we’ve seen its resurgence in ‘cottagecore’ (more on that here). No matter what you buy it for, one thing is clear: Your headscarf will live more than one life. 


Fendi Pequin Folard ($690)


Lee Mathews Georgia Headscarf ($89)

Call The Midwife: Boat Necks

(Credit: BBC)

These days, one might relate the boat neck silhouette to one Meghan Markle who made the style famous with her Givenchy wedding gown in 2018. But the boat neck’s hey-day was certainly in the 1950s when it quickly became synonymous with glamour and ball-gown chic. 

Today boat necks are often worn in a much more casual context, though there’s no denying the timelessness of a red lip, an up-do and a classic boatneck dress, à la Call The Midwife. 


Dion Lee Ribbed Boat Neck Top ($414)


St. Agni Vas Knit Dress ($329)

Mad Men: Shirt Dresses

(Credit: AMC)

While Mad Men was technically set in the early 1960s, the show still blessed us with some of the key practical fashions from the fifties which lived on in wardrobes for decades to come. 

Of course, the shirt dress’ form and silhouette has transitioned over the years. In the 1950s, it was structured, sometimes boned and reached midi to ankle length.

These days, trending shirt dresses remain just as practical, but they’re less restricting, often lighter and made from linens. 


Manning Cartell Sweet Tuscany Shirt Dress ($399)


Ginger & Smart Temperate Shirt Dress ($499)

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