British Retro - 1950's DressesDuring the research for my master thesis, I had a chance to speak with many lovely ladies who represented themselves as a modern pin-up girls, an every single one of them told me that they embrace many aspects of the 50’s, such as fashion, makeup, hairstyles, music, movies, manners, etc, but not position of woman in the society of that time. From our point of view, it can be a challenge to identify only with the role of housewife. However, if we go back in the past, that was the dominant role designed for women. Did ever happened to you that people identify your style with the style of the 50s housewives, because that is their first association? You know, recognizable picture of woman who bakes a cake with pin curls on her head, in high heels and splendid dress? It sure did to me, but that doesn’t bother me, because, for what we know from history of the fashion and vintage photos, those women looked flawless. Speaking of that, Anne Fogarty was one of the designers that advocated this kind of appearance for the women in fifties. Anne is remembered for her book named Wife Dressing, from 1959, and for designing clothes which primary role was to emphasize femininity.

British Retro - 50s dressesShe was born in Pennsylvania, in February 1919. She moved to New York in her early twenties to make her dream, of becoming an actress, come true. While working as a model, Anne decided to become a fashion designer instead. In the late forties and early fifties, she worked as a designer oriented on market for teenagers, when she made her famous, so-called paper doll dress, for which she won many awards. The dress was an affordable and simplified version of dresses that Dior created in his collection New Look, during the 1947. Extremely narrow and highlighted waist, full ballet skirt and lots of petticoats were the common elements of these creations, and, while creating clothes for young housewives, she had one thing in mind, and that was womanhood above all, and on every occasion.

British Retro - 1950s dressesTherefore, in her popular book, she advised women to wear their corsets always and never to allow men to see them in pants, or with curlers on their head. While I am not a huge fan of advocating idea to highlight femininity just to please men, I remind both myself and you that this was a different time and fashion just reflected cultural norms of the decade. Anne herself was perfect example of the female ideal of the time. Even women who had successful careers, like she did, were, in most cases, primarily concentrated on the private sphere and the household. Their job was to emphasize their womanhood and figure while preserving mystique and modesty of mother and wife roles. A woman dressed like this did not only compliment her husbands, but she helped him to improve their social status on some unspoken hierarchical scale. In that light, wife’s marriage role was very important and highly valued. That is why Anne, beside advice about clothing, or how to make a combination for day and evening from the same skirt, included advice for men too. One stood out and suggested that the essence of happy marriage is to adore your woman and to show her that by buying her a lot of shiny jewelry. Don’t know what went wrong, but Anne got married three times, btw :)

British Retro - 1950’s dressesAs the fashion, social and feminine ideals changed during the sixties, Anne started to experiment and to make progress as a designer. She started working for Saks Fifth Avenue and gain popularity for creating more casual, versatile creations dedicated to a new age woman. She opened her own boutique in 1962. During the seventies, she was an independent designer and created clothes for a more mature market, until her death on January 15, 1980. One can say that she was a designer of her time, with a gift to listen the market and to know exactly what people want and need in that specific period. So, during the fifties, she was focused on Dior-like creations and fashion for housewives; to the prevailing ideal of femininity of that decade, and during the sixties and seventies, she moved to a different silhouette with a desire to please the female population that wanted something different for themselves and for their role in the society.


By Miss Psycho Cat

Miss Psycho Cat