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Adventures of Pop and Rock Fashion

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In the early 1950s, at exactly the time that the teenage Elvis Presley was making the first forays into clothes and music in Memphis, disaffected post war youths of Great Britain were granted the less colourful set of options. The homegrown pop music scene was still dominated by the big bands and dance halls, which had sprung up after the war. More excitement was generated by the far more stylish imported American acts such as Johnny Ray, Frank Sinatra and Guy Mitchell, but they had in turn inspired a set of UK copy cats such as Teddy Johnson.

Many in the UK were turned on by the Jazz scene that was awakening. The mode of dress was baggy flannel trousers and loose jumpers with college scarves and duffel coats for men and women. More adventurous women wore ponytails, gingham blouses and dirndl skirts or Juliette Greco fringes with dark make-up around the eyes and black clothing.

Dowdiness was prevalent amongst the middle class music fans, but there was one trend that had started in the immediate post-war years among the upper classes and had been popularised by the working class lads: the neo Edwardian look. This in turn gave birth to the first youth cult: the Teddy Boys.

Many Ted's settled for tight jeans beetle crushers and a DA Because the Teddy boy look was associated with teen violence the idea that fashionable clothes were a threat to society was made. That was how James Dean, Elvis Presley and Marlon Brando came to symbolise rebellious youth.

When Hollywood looked around for rebellious images that would suit stars like Dean and Brando they settled on White T-shirts, jeans and leather jackets. When the kids in Britain saw it up on the big screen they wanted the look too.


Women dressed "smartly' in the Fifties. Good grooming and a tailored look were prized. Acting and looking "every inch the lady" was taught virtually from the cradle.

The poodle skirt is the look most associated with the Fifties. Young women wore them. A poodle skirt is a wide swing skirt with a poodle transferred onto the fabric. Poodles were not the only items used to adorn these skirts, they are just the best remembered. Preppie qualities were neatness, tidiness and grooming. Girls wore full dirndl or circular skirts with large appliquÐ"©s. Bouffant paper nylon or net petticoats supported the skirts. On top they wore scoop neck blouses, back to front cardigans, tight polo necks or three quarter sleeve white fitting shirts often with a scarf knotted cowboy fashion at the side neck. These fashions that originated in America filtered to Britain in watered down fashion.

Marks and Spencer in the 1950s

Marks & Spencer produced the best ready to wear chain store clothes in the fifties and quadrupled their profits at the same time. Their clothes were not the least expensive, but they were the best value for money. The quality became so high in the 1950s that limits were set on production, as everyone wanted the affordable stylish Paris inspired clothes.

Paper Nylon and Net Petticoat Support 1950s

The full skirts needed support to look good and nylon was used extensively to create bouffant net petticoats or paper nylon petticoats. Several petticoats often of varying styles were worn to get just the right look. Each petticoat was stiffened in some way either by conventional starch or a strong sugar solution. Eventually a hoop crinoline petticoat was developed and it had channelled tapes, which were threaded with nylon boning in imitation of whale bone petticoats. A single net petticoat worn over it softened the look of the rigid boning.

Whit Sunday in the 1950s

Most of the British nation still kept religious holidays like Whitsunday and Whit Monday when the mixed congregations from chapels and churches would march through British towns parading their chapel banners and wearing their Sunday best. The clothes would follow the up to date fashions of the time and be sparkling clean often in the new fabrics. Girl's dresses were almost always in nylon with skirts puffed out with petticoats.

1950's Teenage Consumers

Until 1950 the term teenagers had never before been coined. Children were known as girls and youths once they displayed signs of puberty. Then young people were grown up at 18 and fully adult legally at 21 when they often married and set up a home of their own even if it was rented room. Getting married was a way of showing the adult world that you belonged to their world and was a way of escape from puberty.

During the 1950s a range of influences including film, television, magazines and the rock music scene created a new market grouping called teenagers. A sudden flurry of consumer goods denied to war torn Europe were available and a consumer boom was actively encouraged.

THE 1960S

Many things influenced fashion in the 1960s. Social mobility, daring fashion photography, easier travel abroad, the Vietnam war, new music of the Beatles and their much copied hairstyles, retro military and ethnic clothes, musicals, pop art and film all played a part

By the 1960s the Twist, the Shake and the Locomotion ousted the paired dancing couples of earlier generations. Only for the last few dances of the evening was the Smooch allowed for couples to romantically hold each other as they made their play to walk a partner home. Some stalwarts continued to rock and jive and to wear Teddy boy gear.

Many of the fashions of the 1960s existed because of the fabrics. They introduced new fabric properties and when synthetics were mixed with natural fibres there was improved performance in wear. Some had been invented years earlier in the 1930s and 1940s, but it was only in the 60s that huge production plants for synthetic fibres sprang up globally.

First lady fashion

While Jackie Kennedy was first lady of the United States, her channel style suits and bouffant hairstyles were widely copied

Space-Age Fashion

With the first man on the moon to take place in the 60s there was an explosion on sci-fi comics films and TV shows. This sparked a new fashion trend, an alternative way to dress. Space age clothes featured geometric and sculptured shapes. Most of all they exploited the latest materials Ð'- synthetics such as PVC hard plastics, silver Lurex and even metallic paper.

When Art Became Fashion



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