As much as I love the fashion trends of the ’90s and early aughts, I’ve also been there, done that. I’m not saying I’ll never wear another plaid skort with preppy loafers again,or that my legs and waistline don’t thoroughly enjoy the wiggle room baggy styles have to offer. It’s that the alternative era is my comfort zone — I already lived it, so I know how to dress the part. But after two years of reaching for all things stretchy and oversized (mostly as a way to cope with the emotional turmoil that was 2020 and 2021), I want out. I’d like to embrace some of the more elevated styles from decades past, starting with ’50s fashion — which, evidently, is expected to reappear across closets in 2022.
I know I’m not the only one who lost their sense of style during the pandemic. Clothes are a means of expression, and I’ve used them to express my stress and discomfort. Now, however, I’d like to express my loathing of couch potato couture by putting my comfy co-ords and athleisure on hold (at least, until the weekend) and trying something nifty on for size, like a pencil skirt or cigarette trousers, a tie-neck blouse, and kitten heels.
Out of all the decades, there’s a reason the 1950s are coming back around. Personal stylist, Andie Sobrato, for instance, suspects it’s because of how the time period epitomized glamor.
“Women embraced femininity and dressed up for the most casual of occasions [during the 1950s],” Sobrato tells InStyle. Plus, while this era of women’s fashion was rooted in pieces that were delicate in nature (think knits and embroidery), Sobrato believes the clothes are still timeless and powerful in a way that modern women can appreciate and embrace within their own wardrobes.
Reimagining the aesthetic for 2022 will be key, and we’re already seeing this cropping up through trends like pearlcore and light academia. Fashion stylist Rachel Garrett, founder of Edify (an online destination for ethical and sustainable clothing, accessories, and living) also anticipates that the modern spin on ’50s fashion will also involve a sustainable twist.
“While the ’50s saw an emergence of new synthetic materials, entering 2022 these looks will be updated with sustainable and organic fabrics — linen, cottons, and natural materials,” she tells us.
Below, stylists share how styles of the ’50s can still feel relevant today, and offer their best tips on how to wear them.
According to Garret, shirt dresses were popular in the ’50s because they offered women a “classic and clean look” that was — and still is — easy to wear. When shopping for this everyday piece, lean towards fabrics like linen, a natural fiber that’s durable, comfortable, and versatile, along with upcycled materials. You’ll also want to be on the look for feminine details, such as button-down closures and cotton belts, Garret adds. That way, you’ll have almost your whole outfit pulled together with one piece. Then, all you’ll need are “slides or espadrilles to keep it casual, cowboy boots for more of a country look, or sneakers for a head-turning on-the-go look.”
According to Hollywood costume designer and private stylist Leesa Evans,kitten heels and oxford shoes are two footwear trends from the 1950s getting a reboot in 2022, so you’ll want to invest in one or the other (or both).
“A kitten heel dresses up even the most casual of looks, like high waisted jeans, a T-shirt and cardigan (worn over your shoulders),” she tells InStyle. Oxfords, she adds, are best worn with trousers, complete with a frilly blouse or a boxy waist sweater.
Your favorite Y2K-inspired denim and mini skirts are a far cry from the styles women were wearing in the 1950s. If you’re going retro in 2022, swap out sexier cuts for a more conservative skirt length. But just because you’re elongating your hemline doesn’t mean these pieces have to be stiff. On the contrary, fashion stylist Lana Blanc tells InStyle retro ball skirts dominated pre-fall 2022 collections, with full-skirted silhouettes being spotted at Erdem, Christian Siriano, Oscar de la Renta, and Carolina Herrera. The best part? You can pair the flouncy bottom with just about anything: heels or flats, depending on the occasion, as well as crop tops (for a modern spin), button-downs, turtlenecks, and T-shirts.
Go bold and stay matching. According to renowned fashion stylist, Jake Garcia, color was a central focus of the fashion trends in the 1950s.
“The brighter the better,” he tells us over email, noting that now, more than ever, fashion houses are increasing their production of printed pieces. One of his favorite brands offering up ’50s style inspiration is Christian Dior.
“In the latest collection from Dior, you can see the trend of matching prints on all the pieces creating an outfit. The idea of ‘matchy-matchy’ was created in the ’50s, and is now, more than ever, becoming a staple for outfits across the board in fashion houses and their latest collections.”