Get Your 1950's Look in 5 Simple Steps

Prepping for a retro themed party?
Or how about ushering in this Christmas with a little retro flavor?

Here's how you can achieve a 1950's inspired retro look - I promise you won't have to spend a fortune. :)

 

Step 1: Fit and Flare Dresses

Let's first talk about the main component of your entire look - the dress.

Now, let me ask you. What's the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Audrey Hepburn?

The little black dresses, you say?

Well, you're absolutely spot on. If you're an avid fan of Audrey Hepburn (like I am), you would have noticed that a lot of today's vintage style dresses are inspired by her fashion panache.

Ms. Hepburn's dresses were also very commonly found in shades of black. Perhaps one of the most iconic little black dresses of all time was the one Ms. Hepburn wore in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's.

But the one I am particularly interested in (for the sole purpose of this blog post) is the little black dress Ms. Hepburn wore in the movie Sabrina.

Audrey Hepburn in the movie, Sabrina

You'll also see photos of Ms. Hepburn in floral print dresses such as the one depicted below.

Audrey Hepburn in a floral print dress

Are you starting to notice a pattern here? Pardon the pun. :)

All these dresses had one thing in common. They are classic fit and flare dresses. This simply means that the dresses were fitted at the bodice and flared out into a full skirt. Fit and flare dresses are also known as swing dresses.

Another example of these fit and flare dresses is the one worn by Lauren Bacall in the movie How to Marry a Millionaire (see below). I don't know about you, but the lady looked exceptionally stunning in her print dress.

From left to right: Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable

And if you prefer something with even more length to it then let Grace Kelly inspire you with her fashionable long floral print dress.

Grace Kelly in a long, floral print dress

Why I specifically like the fit and flare dress is simple - it helps accentuate your waistline and it cleverly disguises the hips, thighs and buttocks. It's flattering for most women and perfect for pear shapes!

So first order of business, find your fit and flare dress!

Step 2: Belt Up

Now the 1950s was all about placing emphasis on the waistline. Yep, it was all about making your waist look smaller.

Hence the fit and flare and wiggle dresses.

Now that you have your fit and flare dress ready, you might want to consider adorning your outfit with a slim belt. Notice I say slim belt because it's just there to accentuate your waistline. Thick belts are an overkill in my opinion and just a tad too tacky for my liking; but then again, it's a matter of individual preference. Bottom line is, any adornments or embellishments on your clothing should exist for the simple reason of making you look classy and not too costume-y or too over the top.

Take for example this white floral Givenchy dress Ms. Hepburn wore to the Academy Awards in 1954. Notice how the slim belt is fastened tightly around her waist to show off her slim waistline? Of course I'm not asking you to suffocate yourself with a belt. Keep in mind that we just want to create an illusion of a slimmer waistline so let it sit snugly but comfortably on your waist.

Audrey Hepburn in a white Givenchy floral dress

And just to drive my point home, see below for an example of how the addition of a simple belt helps create so much more definition to your waistline.

Left: without a belt, Right: with a belt

Step 3: Pearls

Quick question - what do these celebrities have in common?

You got that right - pearls! Granted, diamonds are a girl's best friend, but if you're gunning for an authentic retro look, then your best bet is pearls.

These days, dresses are embellished with pearls - very much inspired by Audrey Hepburn in her Breakfast at Tiffany's movie. If you have such a dress, then I would say you're pretty much set.

Otherwise, try adorning yourself with long strings of small pearls (by creating several loops) for short dresses, or shorter strings of larger pearls for long dresses. Play around with different combinations until you find something you fancy.

Step 4: Shoes

Often the most overlooked element of a retro makeover, shoes can actually make or break your entire look.

Have you ever seen someone wearing just about the nicest dress you've ever seen, but as your eyes travel down towards the shoes, they make your face twitch?

That's exactly my point. You really need the right pair of shoes.

Back in the 1950s, shoes were rather plain and conventional. Oxford shoes, ballet shoes and plain colored pumps were the norm. Bobby socks were also very commonly worn with penny loafers and saddle shoes.

Having said that though, stilettos were actually popular back in the 1950s for their sex appeal which drove designers to compete with each other to see who could make the skinniest heels.

Shoes popular in the 1950s

Take a look at the blog post here for more designs that were popular in the 1950's. 

Step 5: Make up and Hairdo

One more time - what do these celebrities have in common?


If you answered "red lipstick", then well done!

To perfect your 1950's retro look, you need to pay attention to your makeup and hairdo as well. In fact, in my opinion, if you couldn't be bothered with the clothing and accessories, then at least ace this part.

In terms of makeup, I would go as far as to say that the red lipstick is the quintessential element of any 1950s retro look. In fact, I have a guilty pleasure  - I'm the proud owner of a little over 20 lipsticks in all different shades of red. Yes, I must confess that I have a vice for red lipsticks. My favorite has to be the L'Oreal Colour Riche Coco Rico. Although I do think that some of the shades are pretty much identical but oh well, who's counting? :)

Here is an awesome blog post that shows you how to transform your look into a 1950's Hollywood starlet in just 10 steps.

In terms of hairdo, you'll notice that there is a common theme with retro hairstyles. Regardless which hairstyle you're trying to attain, you'll need to introduce some form of wave or curl. Emily, from The Freckled Fox shares excellent specialty tutorials on how to recreate retro hairstyles. You really don't need a professional for this!

Bonus: Exclusively for Audrey Hepburn fans

This section is a little bonus for you Audrey Hepburn fans out there.

Did you know that Ms. Hepburn had a vice for scarves? In a cover story on Vanity Fair, Ms. Hepburn's son Luca Dotti admitted that his mother had likely close to 30-40 scarves. Ms. Hepburn was truly fond of kerchiefs tied under her chin, as they reminded her of her childhood days on the farm.

For an even more classy and elegant flair, put on a pair of Oliver Goldsmith lookalike large, bold sunglasses!

Here's a signature Audrey Hepburn style I'll leave you with.



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