From make up foundation to foundation garments…..

…..a modern girl’s guide to recreating the 1950s modern girl’s look.

Following the cessation of Second World War hostilities, and in the aftermath of the austerity that the conflict caused, Paris glamour was back on the map with full skirts, tiny cinched waists and prominent busts. Women enthusiasticly embraced the chance to be truly feminine again. 

The Christian Dior New Look of the post war years and into the 1950s gave way to the Body-line; a shapely silhouette with more angular hip lines. The pencil skirt emerged; girdles and corsets re-emerged, although now made from more glamorous and softer materials than before. 

To identify one dress or skirt, and claim it is as representative of an entire decade would be an inaccuracy, but we shall focus on one; that being the pencil skirt.  Those of us of a certain age will recall that the pencil skirt made a resurgence in the 1980s and hence we have selected this familer item as a worthy representative of the 1950s.

The first pencil skirt was designed by Christian Dior as part of his “H-Line” collection of 1954. “H-Line” referred to the silhouettes Dior was creating with parallel lines. With the “H-Line”, the emphasis was shifted tfrom the waist to the hip.  The skirt was tailored to curve over the hip and narrow towards the knee. 

This silhouette both looked different and felt different to wear; sometimes known as a “hobble skirt”, encouraging the wearer to walk with a  Marilyn Monroe style “wiggle”.

The skirt should be calf length to accurately recreate the 1950s look.

Worn with a tight sweater; thus recreating the iconic “sweater girl look”, a style that originated from the 1940s and remained popular throughout the 1950s. The aim was to emphasise a thrusting conical shaped bust; achieved when worn with a bullet bra. 

Foundation garments were a vital part of 1950s fashion, as they should equally be if     looking to emulate the style nowadays.

Briefs should be full brief style with the waist at the area just above the belly button. 

The austerity caused by rationing, and the diversion of nylon towards the war effort during the Second World War, caused a shortage of stockings; that no self-respecting women would choose to be without.  The post war prosperity in the 1950s was coupled with a desire for women to achieve a glamorous femininity. Nylon stockings were an essential part of this and, as such, a garment to support stockings was an essential foundation of any outfit.  The girdle provided such support.

Stockings were Fully fashioned; manufactured from nylon, knitted flat with the two sides sewn together to form the seam. An iconic fashion image when paired with a pencil skirt.

                         Secrets in Lace

The 1950s saw a number of innovations in the manufacture of footwear. With a shoe for every occasion a myriad of styles existed.  The stiletto heel saw a dramatic increase in popularity and the style best suited to accentuate the slimness of the calfs when worn with seamed stockings.

Hollywood actresses such as Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn were fashion and beauty icons.  Their make-up looks defined the 1950s; an era that oozed elegance, glamour and femininity.

Pale skin was back in with foundation as the blank canvass for the look. Rouge was used sparingly and was not a prominent feature of 1950s makeup. Soft pinks were the colour of choice.

Eye shadow came in a variety of colours; usually applied to coordinate with eye colour, or as brighter shades to match an outfit. 

The 1950s saw the emergence of tube mascara with a wand. Mascara was mainly applied to the top lashes only and came in a variety of colours.

Eye liner was also only applied to the top lash. A black line with a little outward flick was the fashionable look, creating an almond-shaped eye. 

Well defined eyebrows were the iconic look of the 1950s, with most women plucking their natural eyebrows to a thin, shapely line, and then darkening them with eye brow pencil. 

Lips, coloured to their natural shape, were the dominant element of 1950s makeup; with red being the most popular colour choice although, lighter shades of other colours such as coral and pink were also very popular. 

And the topping to 1950s fashion; the Marilyn Monroe look, and Hollywood curls.

Recreating the 1950s is easier than many may imagine but, before we continue, a very brief explanation of the difference between vintage and retro.

Vintage items are items from an era whereas retro items are reproductions of an era. 

We shall be suggesting modern reproductions to emulate the 1950s look.

First of all the pencil skirt and, from Secrets in Lace; Erica.

The sweater girl look can authentically be recreated by allowing ones creative juices to flow by way of a vintage pattern.


Within the U.K. the recognised premier retailer of vintage style lingerie is probably not in dispute.

From What Katie Did the Maitresse Nouveau Bullet bra. 

For an enhanced pointed breast shape What Katie Did also offer Bullet bra pads.

Matching lingerie is always desirable and also from What Katie Did.

Maitresse Nouveau Knickers


High Waist Pull On Medium Support Open Bottom Girdle with six Metal Suspenders.

Fully fashioned nylon stockings are remarkably easy to procure from a number of retailers; including

Fully-fashioned plain colour 100% nylon point heel stockings.

Whether it be on Etsy, online or in store the availability of shoes is limitless and so we shall not dwell but move on to, and end with, make up and hair.

To make it easier we have selected two YouTube videos to demonstrate recreating 1950s make up and hair.

Tutorial: AUTHENTIC 1950s Makeup

Marilyn Monroe Hair Tutorial

Thank you for reading our latest blog post and we hope that you have enjoyed reading it.


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