What To Wear…How To Dress…Rockabilly Dresses. Pin Up Dresses. I’ll take this opportunity to clear up a common misconception…that 50s swing dress styles are “Pin Up styles“. They aren’t. “Pin up styles” are: lingerie, swimwear, costumes and other promiscuous outfits that women showed more skin and/or was sexier than what was customary in every day life, back when the fairer species was much much less sexualized. “Pin Up” magazines of the 40s and 50s, (before Playboy emerged) such as those that made Bettie Page our greatest pin up icon are where “Pin Up” girls got their name originally, favorite photos of picturesque and usually scantily clad women were torn from the pages of the magazine and were pinned to the wall to be viewed more easily. Later Playboy magazines were mass produced and although those were also full of pin up girls, Playboy adopted the term “Centerfold” for the star of the particular issue and “Miss January” and other “Miss” Months became the terms used to describe the girls they were pinning to their walls.
There are a few modern 1950s clothing companies who adopted the word “Pin Up” in their names, and that is why women call the 50s genre “Pin up clothing” but I assure you, it is certainly not. Like this octopus dress (the knee length style) from Necessary Evil is in the style of 1950s fashion with an inkling of psychobilly given the octopus print which 50s ladies would never have rocked (examples of psychobilly dresses for the 50s B-horror enthusiasts from a previous article HERE). Or this cute bat one.
If you know any older men who remember being adolescents or young men in that time, there were simply NOT any posters pinned up to the wall of ladies in 50s swing dresses including crinolins and such, loud prints or not. 50s style dresses are generally just swing dresses, the ordinary Jane style of the actual 1950s, meant for dancing.
Rockabilly culture has created an enthusiasm for swing dresses for curvacious women who adore the hour glassy shapes that swing dresses allow, especially with petticoats such as this knee-length one, which works well for shaking your dress at people while you are doing the jive. Funnily, it was mainstream rock music that the masses were dancing to when this style was current originally, but it is the country-rock sound of rockabilly music themed by retro-tattoo-hotrod (and B-horror, in the case of modern psychobilly music) culture which has kept it going for all these years.
The point being, that style was not exciting to men in the 50s, that was utterly average, and incredibly common. Photos worth of being pinned up were models or actresses in swimsuits and fetish attire before it really had a name for its style: like thigh high stockings and high heels, garters, fishnets, tall lace up boots, whips, and topless photos which Bettie Page paved the way for. So you see, “Pin Up Clothing” is really a lot closer to gothic-fetish style than rockabilly, associated directly with showing a lot of skin, NOT past the knee dresses Mrs.Beaver would wear.
But as examples of more 50s styles, I also like Tripp’s Sway collection which cuts above the knee for a more flattering look for shorter girls (like me!) such as this red and white polkadot one that can be found on Hungover Empire’s website (with free shipping to the US and Canada) along with another black pencil dress which although has the longer length, looks fabulous with heels on any sized lady. The pencil dress works as a cocktail dress, you could pull off wearing it to an office job if you put on a blazer with it, it is versatile enough to wear to a wedding, out to a club, out for dinner, etc.
If you are into the longer style, Hell Bunny dresses can be found on both Kate’s Clothing and Vampire Freaks websites and here is a good Tattoo Flocked one that would be considered a rockabilly dress due to its old school tattoo theme.
Regardless of your body type or preference in length though, this style of 50s dress gives you a really good hour glass shape because it flares at the hips, and with the aforementioned petticoats, intensifies the flare, this one was used to make the tattoo-flocked dress pouffier, to fit the knee-length (or so) dresses, which once again you can pull up or down on your hips to show more or less frills out the hem of your dress. And who doesn’t like walking around wearing one of those frilly poufy numbers and knocking things off tables and socks off everybody around?
Excellent for a date, or possibly if you’re attending a wedding and need to tone down your usual rocker look. Or, if like me, you abuse the ability to pull off any and every style in the whole universe, you can add it to your collection.
Read more Fashion Advice for men and women HERE