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1950s Womens workwear classics that stand the test of time

December 15, 2018

Come take a virtual walk through 1950s womens workwear. Then be inspired by the timeless styles and trends that ladies at play and women at work can wear today play!
1950s womens workwear is not just for the 50s. And neither is it restricted to be worn by women at work. Take a look at the classic styles, looks and trends that women wore back in the day and see how easy it is to rock these looks right now, whether for work or play!

Two Women seated in Union Pacific Railroad Pullman car, circa 1950s

Two Women seated in Union Pacific Railroad Pullman car, circa 1950s

Evolution of Womens Workwear through the 40s and 50s

1950s womens workwear evolved from the trends of the 1940s, when nations were in the grip of the second world war. Women were at work in armament, munition and other factories that supported the war effort. Or they were working the farms and fields in place of their menfolk. And then there were the brave women on the front lines of the world war, working as nurses or in other supporting roles on the battlefields of the world.

WW11 war effort poster

WW11 war effort poster

 

When the 1950s dawned, the new decade brought with it an expanded role for women at work, with many women continuing their factory and field jobs, while others left their traditional home-maker roles for the heady freedom of work outside the home in offices, schools, libraries and shops.

 

1950s womens workwear were tailored to suit the various occupations of women at work and you can take advantage of these vintage inspired styles to rock those classic looks today. The most popular trends and vintage styles of the 1950s are as timeless today as they were back in that decade. Come join us as we look back at these 50s favourites, then see how easy it is to work them into your current wardrobe.

Women at work in Quartermaster Depot

Women at work in Quartermaster Depot

Factory Wear in the 1950s

1950s womens workwear at factories consisted mainly of overalls, worn over short-sleeved blouses and tops in the summer, and over long-sleeved sweaters in the winter. These vintage style overalls were usually in khaki or beige colours and cotton or twill fabrications, sturdy enough to stand the wear and tear of factory life.

 

Picture yourself in a vintage inspired overall today, in a classic cool beige summer-ready shade, with top-stitching on the seams, tapered legs and a nipped-in waist. Then add a brightly coloured short-sleeved top in red, blue, coral or yellow and 1950s women’s workwear never looked so good! Finish your look by rolling up the pant hems to show off your ankles, and top it off with white sneakers for a casual-chic timeless style.

Factory workers wearing denim jumpsuits

Factory workers wearing denim jumpsuits

Denim jumpsuits

Another big trend for women at work in factories in the 50s was the popular and oh-so flattering denim jumpsuit, usually in vintage style dark washes. These 1950s womens workwear outfits were ironically very stylish, even though they were designed to be hard-working, durable everyday clothes.

 

Rock a vintage inspired denim jumpsuit today and be totally on trend. Wear it as a short-sleeved look with buttons all down the front, cinched in with a belt at the waist and slim-fitting cropped legs. Add flats in neutral colours or white sneakers for sunny summer days, or amp up the look with stilettos or strappy sandals for warm summer nights.

 

Another twist on this vintage style 1950s womens workwear outfit is to layer your dark wash denim jumpsuit over a black turtleneck sweater and add black ankle boots for an edgy modern spin. Or swap the boots for classic pointy-toe black flats for a more retro take on this classic trend.

Katherine Dunham, American dancer, choreographer, songwriter, anthropologist, author, educator and activist

Katherine Dunham, American dancer, choreographer, songwriter, anthropologist, author, educator and activist

Bright scarves

Women at work in factories finished off their utilitarian outfits by tying up their hair in bright scarves knotted at the forehead or front of the head. These scarves were usually in bright colours and whimsical prints like red and white polka dots.

 

You can totally bring this vintage inspired look into your wardrobe today by reworking the scarf as a short, slim neckerchief, especially if worn in a patterned red or blue print with your beige overalls or denim jumpsuit.

Office Wear in the 1950s

1950s womens workwear was not confined to factories and farms. Women left their homes in droves to find work and economic freedom outside the house and applied for all types of office jobs during this decade.

 

Women at work in offices favoured the classic styles of shirt-dressing, with either short or long sleeves and straight or A-line skirts. These shirt dresses flattered every female figure and were easy and comfortable for long days in the office.

Fashion model Lisa Fonssagrives at Paddington station, London, by American photographer Toni Frissell

Fashion model Lisa Fonssagrives at Paddington station, London, by American photographer Toni Frissell

hourglass silhouette

1950s womens workwear also popularized the timeless hourglass silhouette, either in smart jackets with peplums and belted waisted worn over full or pencil skirts or in the class fit-and-flare dresses of the day.

 

These vintage style outfits were usually in classic yet feminine patterns of checks, polka dots or hounds tooth prints, which look as good today as they did back in the 50s.

 

Accessories for women at work in offices or other non-factory, non-farm jobs were usually pillbox hats, short white gloves and lady-like structured handbags. The popular 1950s womens workwear shoe trend was oxfords with stacked high heels, usually in a warm brown shade or go-with-everything black patent.

Migratory cotton picker on Cortaro Farms, Arizona, USA

Migratory cotton picker on Cortaro Farms, Arizona, USA

1950s Womens Workwear Down on the Farm

In case you thought the 1950s woman was just the telephone operator or secretary – think again! Women were at work every day, actively supporting their menfolk on the farm too – and sharing in all the chores and work to keep the agricultural sector booming.

 

Women at work on the farms were usually in sensible sturdy denim jeans, topped with checked flannel shirts, a casual-classic look that you can wear today on or off the farm. Try this vintage style with updated skinny cropped jeans under a buffalo check hoodie shirt and you are ready for the street.

Woman in blue denim overalls

Woman in blue denim overalls

 

1950s Womens Workwear inspired by Menswear

Women wanted freedom and equal rights and wore the pants to prove they were worth it! Women at work in the 50s did not restrict themselves to dresses and skirts when they went into their offices, schools, libraries and other places of work each day.

 

Menswear-inspired high-waisted, full-legged pants worn with their blouses tucked in were a popular and daring trend adopted by many women at work.

 

You see these vintage inspired looks on the runways and high streets today, with the high-waisted, belted pants worn over fitted tops and over flats or high heels. The focus is on the full pant, tiny waist and relaxed styling that shouts casual-cool.

1950s shoe store

1950s shoe store

Rock all the 1950s Womens Workwear Trends Today!

Go visit your local thrift stores and look for classic styles from the 50s like fit-and-flare dresses in fun prints, or equally flattering jumpsuits. Be sure to pick natural fabrics like cotton, wool or silk for their longevity.

 

Or visit your nearest consignment store for one-of-a-kind authentic 1950s womens workwear. It may cost more than what your thrift store offers, but the quality and condition is usually worth the price.

 

Don’t forget to check out the wide selection of vintage inspired and vintage style shopping sites online, where you can get both authentic vintage outfits from back in the day, or re-imagined, modern-day outfits inspired by the retro trends of 1950s womens workwear.

 

Raiding your older relatives or friend’s closet is another way to get your hands on genuine 1950s womens workwear. If that is not an option, you can host a swapping party and have everyone bring in their vintage inspired outfits. You will be sure to find the classics there, like the nipped in waists and full or pencil skirts of the 50s.

 

And finally, there are online trading sites like Bunz where you can search for vintage style or authentic vintage clothing inspired by 1950s womens workwear and trade something you love on this site for something you are ready to give away.

Links

[1] https://bunz.com/

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