The year 1952 was one of transition in women's fashions. The silhouette was in the process of slimming and softening: the full-blown skirts over crinolines, petticoats and stiffened linings began to narrow down; the stiff taffeta, faille, alpaca and starched cottons of 1950–51 were replaced by more supple silks such as crepe, barathea and chiffon. Hard-finished wools gave way to spongy tweeds, sheer wools and jersey.
The full skirt remained popular with young girls, but they also welcomed the "siren sheath" for both day and evening wear. This was not the shapeless bag of the 1920s; it outlined the figure closely from bosom to hipline. The waistline area was often indented with a wide cummerbund, satin sash or elastic belt or gored in to a princess line without a belt. The nipped waistline in suits and the tiny cinched waist in dresses relaxed and deepened into the long curve of the hourglass torso.
Skirt shapes kept to a smooth molded hipline but often flared out below in pleats, "morning glory" gores or trumpet flounces. There were many all-over pleated dresses and by new processes the pleating was rendered permanent, crease-resistant and often washable. Hemlines were on the downward trend, dropping about one inch a season.
In the second half of the year, the silhouette assumed bulk at the top and suits and coats lost their form-fitting shape. The concave front, "spoon back" and the straight cardigan replaced the fitted jacket. Coats narrowed from "tents" to "columns."
It was a year of elaborate "hidden" dressmaking; even narrow skirts were silk-lined to rustle and round out over the hips and bodices for both day and evening were boned.
The death of King George VI of England and the accession of the lovely young Queen Elizabeth II brought a flurry of revived Elizabethan fashions and fashion terms: the long pointed Tudor bodice, upstanding Elizabethan collars, farthingale pads at the sides of the skirts and jeweled velvet dresses. Tiaras and little crowns became evening jewelry fads.
Italy and Spain both vied for attention as new centers of fashion inspiration. Leading designers in Rome and Florence organized showings for United States buyers and for the press. Couturiers in Madrid and Barcelona followed suit.
Italy influenced shoe fashions with mule sandals, held on by narrow bands across the instep, leaving most of the foot bare. Barefoot shoes were worn on the street as well as for sport and evening.
Throughout the year, fabric was the focal point of fashion. A long-haired, curly wool called "poodle cloth" by its originator, Jacques Lesur, dominated the coat-fabric field and became a popular byword. After poodle cloth came straight-haired wools, carefully brushed and silky, and other thick, downy cloths. Tweeds returned to fashion and were used more for cosmopolitan than country clothes. Silk was the leading dress fabric, even in the budget-priced field. Silk crepe, chiffon and oriental gauzes assumed importance as the silhouette narrowed and softened. Silk and velvet coats were a favorite afternoon and evening fashion.
Much prominence was given to the "miracle fabrics" of synthetic yarns which boasted superperformance in washing. quick drying and insulation against heat and cold.
The "sweater girl" came back into prominence; the 1952 sweater was highly decorative, form fitting and individual—a far cry from the college girls' "sloppy Joe" of the war years. Sweaters were patterned in stripes and in plaids, and elaborate beading made the evening sweater opulent and expensive.
Necklines stopped plunging and curved in wide shallow arcs. Strapless dresses were usually veiled with fichus or stoles. The stole was the most popular all-round accessory, being worn any time from morning until night in fur, knit, wool to match the suit, dress or coat and in sweeping satin or tulle for evening.
Hat fashions, long limited to the small hat worn flat on top of the head, changed noticeably to higher, pointed shapes and moved very sharply forward, backward or to one side. Pointed helmets and turbans completely concealed the hair. Elaborately jeweled evening caps, pillboxes and evening veils were popular. Hats were light and soft and seldom elaborately trimmed except for jewel embroidery.
The "poodle cut" and the "pony tail" hairdo were the favorite of smart women as well as young girls. By the summer of 1952, however, hair began to go glamorous, with a return to soft waves and long bobs. The "Mamie bang," imitating Mrs. Dwight Eisenhower's neat forehead ringlets, became a pronounced fad.
Also growing bulkier, more noticeable and "noisy" was jewelry. Many-strand pearl bibs and long or large loop earrings glittered at throat and ears, with both day and evening wear.
1952 Vintage Fashion
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How hemlines changed and the maxi vs the mini