Monday, 28 May 2012

Fabulous 50s glamour

Melonie Clarke samples styles of a bygone era

When Queen Elizabeth came to the throne in 1952, what would The Lady readers have been wearing? Luckily the lovely ladies at Vivien of Holloway were on hand to answer my question. They invited me to try on some fabulous 50s dresses and gave me all the tips on recreating the look today.

circle-with-peticoatHalterneck Circle Dress in Navy and White Polkadot £89, two petticoats (white and red) £59 each, Red satin 2" belt £14

In 2009, Vivien of Holloway opened the doors to their boutique on Holloway Road and since then it has become the go-to place for outfits which are a blast from the past. And with the Diamond Jubilee upon us, it is the perfect time to embrace the 50s fashion!

As I slip in and out of petticoats and full circle dresses the girls explain that early 50s fashion changed as the decade progressed. A country still under rationing, people were careful not to spend their money on vast amounts of fabric. Dior's 'New Look' first appeared on the fashion scene in 1947, but the female fashion buyer, used to masculine cuts that had become the norm during the war years, found this new look very controversial. The use of lots of material for an item of clothing was considered a luxury and one which women which were not used to at the time.

jeans40s Swing Jeans in Blue Denim £45, Halterneck Top in Red Cupcake £35, Flower £14.

As one of the boutique assistants helped me into a halter neck full circle dress with two full petticoats, she told me that by the height of the 50s a full skirt with a nipped in waist was very much in vogue. Women were moving away from the masculine look of the war years and embracing their figures. The most popular styles were feminine, glamorous and desirable. Just looking at my reflection in the mirror, wearing a shocking red, incredibly tight (in a good way) sarong dress, it is clear that the look of the 50s has stood the test of time.

Dior's 'New Look' had become so popular that even the young Princess Elizabeth was seen sporting the latest full skirt and petticoat. Emma, one of the stores delightful stylists, went onto say that "she [Princess Elizabeth] wore very classic items, pencil skirts, blouses and skirt suits that could still easily be worn by today's young Royals." In archive pictures the young Princess was pictured wearing many beautiful gowns, the majority of which were designed by Norman Hartnell: "He was a fabulous British designer and had a very simple, elegant style- which she still stands out today!"

sarong-dressRed Sateen Sarong Set £120, 2" White belt £12, Flower £14

At the moment there is a resurgence in popularity of looks from by gone eras. Is it because of the Diamond Jubilee this year? The girls at Vivien of Holloway think it is largely down to the fact it is a timeless style: "It's a style that always works well on any woman, and during a recession, people always tend to hark back to previous times of hardship." The Boutique in Holloway Road stands for well-made (and more importantly, made in Britain), products which are based upon "feminine styles that flatter the figure and are made to last." These are "much better than fast fashion from the high street." Chatting to the girls, it becomes clear that the biggest reason that the 50s look is so popular is because the outfits make you feel and look great. And it's just so much fun! Swirling around the store in a pair of 50s jeans and a halter neck top, I was in my element.

000 0020The perfect Diamond Jubilee party outfit! Denim shorts £45, Stawberry Midi top £28 , Flower £14.

If you want to re-create the look yourself the Vivien of Holloways girls have the essential tips. Key items you need in your wardrobe are "slim-fitted cigarette pants, fitted blouses, circle dresses and A-line skirts along with feminine knitwear in pastel shades" which can be found easily at Vivien of Holloway as well as lots of high street shops, making the look even easier to recreate.

If you want to recreate a 50s themed Jubilee outfit the girls say "It's all about fun." The Coronation parties in 1952-53 would have seen girls wearing high waisted shorts with a fitted top or a cute playsuit, as well as lovely cotton dresses "in fresh floral prints ideal for Coronation street parties."

duchess-dressQueen for a day! Ivory Duchess Satin Grace Dress £110, two petticoats (white and red) £59 each, sash stylist's own

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