1950’s Cocktail Dresses: Sheath, Circle Skirt Styles

1950s cocktail dress1950’s Cocktail dresses were women’s special dresses appropriate for dinners, parties, and special dates! Like most 50’s dresses these came down to below the knee and were made of finer rayons, satins, silks and high end cottons. They were usually solid colors in vibrant colors like emerald green, Safire blue and deep red. Of course black was a popular color for cocktail dresses known as ‘little black dresses.’

Decoration could either be very minimal with a little glass beading around the neckline, or fully covered in sequins. The beauty in most 1950’s cocktail dresses was in the design of the pleating, ruching, folds, and gathers. Fabric was bunched and draped in interesting patterns around the bodice and sometimes in the skirt as well. Most dresses had a wide sash band or thin belt in the same material as the dress.

1950’s Cocktail Dresses: The Full Circle Dress

1950s cokatil dressesThere are two 1950’s cocktail dress silhouettes. The first is what we consider house dresses or swing dresses. They are full skirts, often worn with petticoats, with tight fitted bodices, and either short cap sleeves or no sleeves at all. The sleeveless dress was a new invention in the 1950’s and women embraced the fashion.

The circle dress shape was the choice dress for housewives and casual office workers worn without petticoats. However for evening wear the dresses were dressed up with nicer materials and prettier decorations and usually had very puffy petticoats underneath.  For very special formal wear these full skirted dresses were longer and with larger amounts of tulle.

1950’s Cocktail Dresses: The Sheath Dress

50's cocktail dressThe other 1950’s cocktail dress silhouette was the sheath dress. These dresses were a bit shorter and very slim around the body. The terms wiggle dress or pencil dress describe sheath dresses  although these various are tighter then 50’s dresses were. The idea was to make an nice high waisted hour glass shape yet still be able to walk and sit in them. Sheath dresses were especially popular with city women, Hollywood stars, and wives who married very well. 1950’s Sheath dresses had subtle design changes throughout the decade.

Today the sheath style dress is very common for cocktail attire. The TV show Mad Men features most women wearing sheath dresses, which remained popular though the 1960’s. With a  conservative sophisticated 50’s flair to sheath dresses they have become new icons for the fashion runways today.

Both dresses can look amazing on any body type. Don’t let the 1950’s ads fool you. Many women were quite voluptuous in the 1950’s and they looked good in both styles.

Here are some 1950’s style cocktail dresses for sale from around the web. Also check out 1950’s Dresses , 1950’s Plus Size dresses, and 1960’s/Mad Men dresses for more options:

Adrianna Papell Pleat Bodice Rosette Ballgown
 

Adrianna Papell Pleat Bodice Rosette Ballgown

$238.00

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Terani 51P0181 Sky Blue Illusion Crystal Top Ball Gown 2015 Prom Dresses
 

Terani 51P0181 Sky Blue Illusion Crystal Top Ball Gown 2015 Prom Dresses

$385.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Sweet Pink Beading Tulle Sweetheart Neck Women's Ball Gown
 

Sweet Pink Beading Tulle Sweetheart Neck Women's Ball Gown

$179.99

Buy at: Milanoo.com Ltd

Aisle Be There Dress in Dragonfly
 

Aisle Be There Dress in Dragonfly

$164.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Lady Love Song Dress in Ruby
 

Lady Love Song Dress in Ruby

$89.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Lady Love Song Dress in Black
 

Lady Love Song Dress in Black

$89.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Short Sleeves Beaded Tea Length Mother of the Bride Dress
 

Short Sleeves Beaded Tea Length Mother of the Bride Dress

$74.99

Buy at: Milanoo.com Ltd

Black A-line Strapless Organza Tea Length Maternity Bridesmaid Dress
 

Black A-line Strapless Organza Tea Length Maternity Bridesmaid Dress

$99.99

Buy at: Milanoo.com Ltd

A-line Red Chiffon One-Shoulder Tea-Length Prom Dress
 

A-line Red Chiffon One-Shoulder Tea-Length Prom Dress

$99.99

Buy at: Milanoo.com Ltd

Sheath Jewel Neck Beading Floor-Length Tulle Bridal Wedding Gown
 

Sheath Jewel Neck Beading Floor-Length Tulle Bridal Wedding Gown

$399.99

Buy at: Milanoo.com Ltd

Vintage A-line Tea-Length Bridesmaid Dress with Beaded Satin
 

Vintage A-line Tea-Length Bridesmaid Dress with Beaded Satin

$109.99

Buy at: Milanoo.com Ltd

Champagne Vintage Sweetheart Knee-Length Bridesmaid Dress with Bow Decor
 

Champagne Vintage Sweetheart Knee-Length Bridesmaid Dress with Bow Decor

$109.99

Buy at: Milanoo.com Ltd

1950s Style Black Fabi Chiffon Swing Dress
 

1950s Style Black Fabi Chiffon Swing Dress

$92.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style Black Satin Cocktail Swing Dress
 

1950s Style Black Satin Cocktail Swing Dress

$66.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Red & Black Lace Annabella Wiggle Dress
 

Red & Black Lace Annabella Wiggle Dress

$78.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Madison James Pink & Yellow Beaded Strapless Tulle Dress Prom 2015
 

Madison James Pink & Yellow Beaded Strapless Tulle Dress Prom 2015

$398.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Unique Vintage Navy & Ivory Three-Quarter Sleeve Eva Marie Stretch Swing Dress
 

Unique Vintage Navy & Ivory Three-Quarter Sleeve Eva Marie Stretch Swing Dress

$130.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Unique Vintage Champagne Short Sleeve Novak Cocktail Dress
 

Unique Vintage Champagne Short Sleeve Novak Cocktail Dress

$103.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Unique Vintage 1950s Style Black & Pink Strapless Lace DeCarlo Prom Dress
 

Unique Vintage 1950s Style Black & Pink Strapless Lace DeCarlo Prom Dress

$176.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Ever So Lovely Dress
 

Ever So Lovely Dress

$51.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Nina - Teagan (Women's) - Black Baby Glitter
 

Nina - Teagan (Women's) - Black Baby Glitter

$58.95

Buy at: Shoebuy.com

Nina - Teagan (Women's) - Royal Silver/Clear Luster Satin
 

Nina - Teagan (Women's) - Royal Silver/Clear Luster Satin

$58.95

Buy at: Shoebuy.com

Nina - Teagan (Women's) - Gold Luster Satin
 

Nina - Teagan (Women's) - Gold Luster Satin

$58.95

Buy at: Shoebuy.com

1950s Style Black & White Dotted Sleeveless Recital Swing Dress
 

1950s Style Black & White Dotted Sleeveless Recital Swing Dress

$68.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

eShakti Women's Grace dress
 

eShakti Women's Grace dress

$119.95

Buy at: eShakti

eShakti Women's Grace dress
 

eShakti Women's Grace dress

$94.95

Buy at: eShakti

eShakti Women's Grace dress
 

eShakti Women's Grace dress

$79.95

Buy at: eShakti

Blush Tulle & Lace Bateau Ball Gown 2015 Prom Dresses
 

Blush Tulle & Lace Bateau Ball Gown 2015 Prom Dresses

$200.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Terani 151P0181 Pink Illusion Crystal Top Ball Gown 2015 Prom Dresses
 

Terani 151P0181 Pink Illusion Crystal Top Ball Gown 2015 Prom Dresses

$385.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Terani 151P0092 Fuchsia Strapless Tulle Ball Gown 2015 Prom Dresses
 

Terani 151P0092 Fuchsia Strapless Tulle Ball Gown 2015 Prom Dresses

$364.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Champagne Sequin Beaded Strapless Sweetheart Tulle Ball Gown 2015 Prom Dresses
 

Champagne Sequin Beaded Strapless Sweetheart Tulle Ball Gown 2015 Prom Dresses

$358.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Terani 15100P85 Red Strapless Tulle Ball Gown 2015 Prom Dresses
 

Terani 15100P85 Red Strapless Tulle Ball Gown 2015 Prom Dresses

$372.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Sue Wong Fall 2014 N4376 Forest Green Embroidered & Beaded Spaghetti Strap Long Dress
 

Sue Wong Fall 2014 N4376 Forest Green Embroidered & Beaded Spaghetti Strap Long Dress

$508.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style White Tulle Dress
 

1950s Style White Tulle Dress

$118.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Preorder - Unique Vintage 1950s Style Ivory Dot High Society Swing Dress
 

Preorder - Unique Vintage 1950s Style Ivory Dot High Society Swing Dress

$138.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Elise Ryan Bandeau Midi Prom Dress In Organza Floral Print - Multi
 

Elise Ryan Bandeau Midi Prom Dress In Organza Floral Print - Multi

$151.00

Buy at: ASOS.com USA

ASOS Midi Prom Dress In Floral Bloom Print - Bloom print
 

ASOS Midi Prom Dress In Floral Bloom Print - Bloom print

$83.00

Buy at: ASOS.com USA

ASOS Beautiful Floral Printed Midi Prom Dress - Print
 

ASOS Beautiful Floral Printed Midi Prom Dress - Print

$156.00

Buy at: ASOS.com USA

Forever Unique Plus Size Flora Embellished Dress - Nude
 

Forever Unique Plus Size Flora Embellished Dress - Nude

$230.00

Buy at: ASOS.com USA

Women's Alex Evenings Lace & Taffeta Midi Dress with Jacket
 

Women's Alex Evenings Lace & Taffeta Midi Dress with Jacket

$198.00

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

1950s Style Red & Black Velvet Rose Flocked Dance With Me Sateen Swing Dress
 

1950s Style Red & Black Velvet Rose Flocked Dance With Me Sateen Swing Dress

$112.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style Cherry Red Halter Pleated Marilyn Swing Dress
 

1950s Style Cherry Red Halter Pleated Marilyn Swing Dress

$48.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style Black Halter Marilyn Swing Dress
 

1950s Style Black Halter Marilyn Swing Dress

$58.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style White Halter Marilyn Swing Dress
 

1950s Style White Halter Marilyn Swing Dress

$58.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style Navy Blue Cotton Sateen Scallop Brenda Swing Dress
 

1950s Style Navy Blue Cotton Sateen Scallop Brenda Swing Dress

$122.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style Black & Olive Green Metallic Sleeveless O'Hara Swing Dress
 

1950s Style Black & Olive Green Metallic Sleeveless O'Hara Swing Dress

$115.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style Red Cap Sleeve Surplice Scuba Swing Dress
 

1950s Style Red Cap Sleeve Surplice Scuba Swing Dress

$82.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style White Marilyn Satin Halter Prom Dress
 

1950s Style White Marilyn Satin Halter Prom Dress

$78.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Mignon VM1566 Blush Pink Lace & Pearl Gown 2015 Prom Dresses
 

Mignon VM1566 Blush Pink Lace & Pearl Gown 2015 Prom Dresses

$518.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Terani 151P0085 Coral & Nude Intricate Detailed Bodice Gown 2015 Prom Dresses
 

Terani 151P0085 Coral & Nude Intricate Detailed Bodice Gown 2015 Prom Dresses

$438.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

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About Debbie Sessions

Debbie Sessions is passionate about wearing history through fashion. She and her husband, Oscar, have turned their hobby into a career by teaching others how to re-create vintage style with affordable new vintage inspired clothing and accessories. We connect shoppers to the best vintage inspired clothing, shoes and accessories and teach fashion history as it was worn by everyday people. Need more help? Contact us anytime.

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