The 1950s bridged the gap between the reserved and conservative styles of the late 1940s and the fun and quirky looks that would define 1960s fashion. Hemlines grew shorter, waistlines wandered up and down, before disappearing completely, and the West seemed obsessed with making up for wartime limitations with excessive glamour and consumerism.
Though not as diverse as many of the decades that would follow it, the 1950s saw a great deal of change in style from beginning to end. With WWII – and the rationing and sensible styles it brought – having coming to an end, the fashion world struggled to find a new look for the world in which it found itself.
Fashion, then, went in two distinct directions. On the one hand, the fashion houses promoted more conformity in how people should dress and look, with elegant but simple styles. On the other hand, teens were responsible for the creation of rebellious subcultures that created unique styles of their own, like Teddy Boys, Greasers, Hepcats, and even Beatniks.
Photos by Nina Leen/LIFE archives