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:

A-line One Shoulder Tea-length Tulle Cocktail/Prom Dress Inspired By Kaley Cuoco At The Emmys
 

A-line One Shoulder Tea-length Tulle Cocktail/Prom Dress Inspired By Kaley Cuoco At The Emmys

$79.99

Buy at: LightInTheBox

Retro Style Covered Cocktail Jacket Dress
 

Retro Style Covered Cocktail Jacket Dress

$260.00

Buy at: Bluegala.com and alight.com

Adrianna Papell Pleat Bodice Rosette Ballgown
 

Adrianna Papell Pleat Bodice Rosette Ballgown

$238.00

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Stretch Satin A-line Tea-length Cocktail Dress inspired by Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and the City
 

Stretch Satin A-line Tea-length Cocktail Dress inspired by Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and the City

$89.69

Buy at: LightInTheBox

Unique Vintage White Sateen and Black Ribbon Tea Length Dress
 

Unique Vintage White Sateen and Black Ribbon Tea Length Dress

$75.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Plus Size Pink Princess Ball Gown
 

Plus Size Pink Princess Ball Gown

$279.00

Buy at: Bluegala.com and alight.com

Enamored by Elegance Dress
 

Enamored by Elegance Dress

$97.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Ivory Brushed Satin 1950s Style Tea Length Wedding Gown
 

Ivory Brushed Satin 1950s Style Tea Length Wedding Gown

$148.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style Black Satin Cocktail Swing Dress
 

1950s Style Black Satin Cocktail Swing Dress

$66.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style White Marilyn Satin Halter Prom Dress
 

1950s Style White Marilyn Satin Halter Prom Dress

$78.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Flocked Ombre Ball Gown
 

Flocked Ombre Ball Gown

$250.00

Buy at: Bluegala.com and alight.com

Stop Staring! Lola 1950s Style Red Satin Stretch Wiggle Dress
 

Stop Staring! Lola 1950s Style Red Satin Stretch Wiggle Dress

$72.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Eliza J Illusion Yoke Mesh Ball Gown
 

Eliza J Illusion Yoke Mesh Ball Gown

$248.00

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

1950s Style Black Satin & Lace Antoinette Dress
 

1950s Style Black Satin & Lace Antoinette Dress

$63.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Unique Vintage Lilac Lace 1950s Party Swing Dress
 

Unique Vintage Lilac Lace 1950s Party Swing Dress

$75.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Authentic Vintage 1950s Fushcia Tulle & Taffeta with Rose Accent Strapless Party Dress - Sz. XS
 

Authentic Vintage 1950s Fushcia Tulle & Taffeta with Rose Accent Strapless Party Dress - Sz. XS

$175.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Authentic Vintage Black Floral Silk Garden Party Swing Dress
 

1950s Authentic Vintage Black Floral Silk Garden Party Swing Dress

$148.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Authentic Vintage Purple & Blue Watercolor Shelf Bust Party Dress
 

1950s Authentic Vintage Purple & Blue Watercolor Shelf Bust Party Dress

$98.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Authentic Vintage Pink Chiffon & Organza Party Dress
 

1950s Authentic Vintage Pink Chiffon & Organza Party Dress

$198.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Authentic Vintage White & Pink Floral Strapless Party Dress
 

1950s Authentic Vintage White & Pink Floral Strapless Party Dress

$128.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Authentic Vintage 1950's Pink Strapless Party Dress
 

Authentic Vintage 1950's Pink Strapless Party Dress

$49.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Authentic Vintage 1950s Fire Engine Red Prom Dress - Size 6/8
 

Authentic Vintage 1950s Fire Engine Red Prom Dress - Size 6/8

$163.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Long Strapless Prom Gown With Ball Gown Skirt
 

Long Strapless Prom Gown With Ball Gown Skirt

$338.00

Buy at: Bluegala.com and alight.com

Authentic Vintage 1950's Pale Yellow Strapless Chiffon Prom Dress with Rose Applique - Size 2
 

Authentic Vintage 1950's Pale Yellow Strapless Chiffon Prom Dress with Rose Applique - Size 2

$171.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Authentic 1950s Vintage Ivory Chiffon with Pink Bodice & Floral Design Prom Dress - Sz XS
 

Authentic 1950s Vintage Ivory Chiffon with Pink Bodice & Floral Design Prom Dress - Sz XS

$153.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style White Tulle Dress
 

1950s Style White Tulle Dress

$118.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Authentic Vintage 1950s Black Velvet Cap Sleeve Swing Dress
 

Authentic Vintage 1950s Black Velvet Cap Sleeve Swing Dress

$153.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Authentic Vintage 1950 Coral Taffeta Embriobered Swing Dress
 

Authentic Vintage 1950 Coral Taffeta Embriobered Swing Dress

$255.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Authentic Vintage 1950s Style Scoop Neck Pink Swing Dress with Bow Skirt - Sz: 6
 

Authentic Vintage 1950s Style Scoop Neck Pink Swing Dress with Bow Skirt - Sz: 6

$161.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Authentic Vintage Black 1950s Style Swing Dress with Open Shoulders - Size: 6/8
 

Authentic Vintage Black 1950s Style Swing Dress with Open Shoulders - Size: 6/8

$153.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Authentic Vintage 1950s Style Three-Quarter Sleeve Navy Collared Swing Dress - Sz: 8
 

Authentic Vintage 1950s Style Three-Quarter Sleeve Navy Collared Swing Dress - Sz: 8

$153.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Authentic Vintage Metallic Black & Cream Floral Wiggle Dress
 

1950s Authentic Vintage Metallic Black & Cream Floral Wiggle Dress

$136.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Stop Staring! 1950s Style Taupe Lace Darla Swing Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1950s Style Taupe Lace Darla Swing Dress

$196.00

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

Unique Vintage Red Three-Quarter Sleeve Grace Swing Dress
 

Unique Vintage Red Three-Quarter Sleeve Grace Swing Dress

$118.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Red & Black Lace Annabella Wiggle Dress
 

Red & Black Lace Annabella Wiggle Dress

$60.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Unique Vintage Red Off The Shoulder Jayne Swing Dress
 

Unique Vintage Red Off The Shoulder Jayne Swing Dress

$124.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Black Belted Darling Wiggle Dress
 

Black Belted Darling Wiggle Dress

$70.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Unique Vintage Roman Holiday Ivory Scalloped Swing Dress
 

Unique Vintage Roman Holiday Ivory Scalloped Swing Dress

$128.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Unique Vintage Two Tone White Dot Dixie Swing Dress
 

Unique Vintage Two Tone White Dot Dixie Swing Dress

$148.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Stop Staring! Mad Men Navy Cap Sleeve Swing Dress
 

Stop Staring! Mad Men Navy Cap Sleeve Swing Dress

$166.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Stop Staring! Mad Men Eggplant Cap Sleeve Swing Dress
 

Stop Staring! Mad Men Eggplant Cap Sleeve Swing Dress

$166.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Red Floral Flocked Lace Overlay Flaired Cocktail Dress
 

Red Floral Flocked Lace Overlay Flaired Cocktail Dress

$74.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Green Floral Flocked Lace Overlay Cocktail Dress
 

Green Floral Flocked Lace Overlay Cocktail Dress

$74.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Unique Vintage Exclusive - Mint Green Tea Leaves Swing Dress
 

Unique Vintage Exclusive - Mint Green Tea Leaves Swing Dress

$50.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Unique Vintage Black Lace Evening in Paris Swing Dress
 

Unique Vintage Black Lace Evening in Paris Swing Dress

$25.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Early to the Party Dress
 

Early to the Party Dress

$94.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Posh at the Party Dress in Teal
 

Posh at the Party Dress in Teal

$134.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Forever Unique Prom Dress with 3/4 Sleeves - Light blue
 

Forever Unique Prom Dress with 3/4 Sleeves - Light blue

$134.55

Buy at: ASOS.com USA

Tulle Ballgown With Beaded Streams
 

Tulle Ballgown With Beaded Streams

$498.00

Buy at: Bluegala.com and alight.com

Starry Glitter Ballgown Dress
 

Starry Glitter Ballgown Dress

$286.00

Buy at: Bluegala.com and alight.com

Loving the Limelight Dress
 

Loving the Limelight Dress

$189.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Lakeside Libations Dress in Navy
 

Lakeside Libations Dress in Navy

$89.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Picture Perfection Dress in Rouge
 

Picture Perfection Dress in Rouge

$199.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Endear Everyone Dress in Dusk
 

Endear Everyone Dress in Dusk

$169.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Gilded Grace Dress in Champagne
 

Gilded Grace Dress in Champagne

$139.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Awesome Like It Hot Dress
 

Awesome Like It Hot Dress

$132.99

Buy at: ModCloth

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

$66.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Silver Princess Ball Gown
 

Silver Princess Ball Gown

$258.00

Buy at: Bluegala.com and alight.com

Lady Love Song Dress in Merlot Velvet
 

Lady Love Song Dress in Merlot Velvet

$89.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Lady Love Song Dress in Black
 

Lady Love Song Dress in Black

$66.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Lady Love Song Dress in Sapphire
 

Lady Love Song Dress in Sapphire

$89.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Strike a Pose Dress
 

Strike a Pose Dress

$97.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Music in the Moonlight Dress
 

Music in the Moonlight Dress

$179.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Sue Wong Summer 2014 - Champagne Lotus Cocktail Dress
 

Sue Wong Summer 2014 - Champagne Lotus Cocktail Dress

$478.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Sue Wong 2013 Prom Dresses - Champagne Cap-Sleeve Short Dress
 

Sue Wong 2013 Prom Dresses - Champagne Cap-Sleeve Short Dress

$198.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

A-line Princess Straps Tea-length Stretch Satin Cocktail/Prom Dress (635894)
 

A-line Princess Straps Tea-length Stretch Satin Cocktail/Prom Dress (635894)

$98.99

Buy at: LightInTheBox

Making Moves Dress
 

Making Moves Dress

$159.99

Buy at: ModCloth

1950s Style Black & White Polka Dot Belted Swing Dress
 

1950s Style Black & White Polka Dot Belted Swing Dress

$66.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Preorder - Unique Vintage 1950s Style Navy Rhapsody Swing Dress
 

Preorder - Unique Vintage 1950s Style Navy Rhapsody Swing Dress

$148.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Preorder - Unique Vintage 1950s Style Black & Nude Midtown Halter Swing Dress
 

Preorder - Unique Vintage 1950s Style Black & Nude Midtown Halter Swing Dress

$118.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Preorder - Unique Vintage Navy Floral Dandridge Strapless Swing Dress
 

Preorder - Unique Vintage Navy Floral Dandridge Strapless Swing Dress

$136.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Unique Vintage Dandridge Strapless Floral Dress
 

Unique Vintage Dandridge Strapless Floral Dress

$50.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

ASTR Jacquard Full Midi Dress
 

ASTR Jacquard Full Midi Dress

$88.00

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Nina Canacci 2014 Prom Dresses - Red Tulle & Beaded Bodice Ball Gown
 

Nina Canacci 2014 Prom Dresses - Red Tulle & Beaded Bodice Ball Gown

$358.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Mint Green Tulle & AB Stone Strapless Gown Prom 2015
 

Mint Green Tulle & AB Stone Strapless Gown Prom 2015

$270.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Pink Tulle & Filigree Bodice Gown Prom 2015
 

Pink Tulle & Filigree Bodice Gown Prom 2015

$170.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Sparkling Cap Sleeve Ball Gown
 

Sparkling Cap Sleeve Ball Gown

$538.00

Buy at: Bluegala.com and alight.com

Ball Gown Bateau Knee-length Satin Tulle Wedding Dress inspired by Audrey Hepburn Funny Face
 

Ball Gown Bateau Knee-length Satin Tulle Wedding Dress inspired by Audrey Hepburn Funny Face

$99.99

Buy at: LightInTheBox

Mac Duggal 2014 Prom Dresses - Black Corset Sweetheart Ball Gown
 

Mac Duggal 2014 Prom Dresses - Black Corset Sweetheart Ball Gown

$198.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

A-line Straps Tea-length Satin Bridesmaid/ Wedding Party Dress
 

A-line Straps Tea-length Satin Bridesmaid/ Wedding Party Dress

$74.99

Buy at: LightInTheBox

A-line V-neck Tea-length Taffeta Cocktail/Prom Dress(699433)
 

A-line V-neck Tea-length Taffeta Cocktail/Prom Dress(699433)

$79.99

Buy at: LightInTheBox

A-line Strapless Tea-length Taffeta Evening Dress inspired by Audrey Tautou at Cannes Film Festival
 

A-line Strapless Tea-length Taffeta Evening Dress inspired by Audrey Tautou at Cannes Film Festival

$107.99

Buy at: LightInTheBox

A-line Princess Strapless Tea-length Tulle Evening/Prom Dress
 

A-line Princess Strapless Tea-length Tulle Evening/Prom Dress

$85.49

Buy at: LightInTheBox

Authentic 1950s Vintage Elegant Red Strapless Rose Taffeta & Tulle Prom Gown - Size 4
 

Authentic 1950s Vintage Elegant Red Strapless Rose Taffeta & Tulle Prom Gown - Size 4

$204.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Short Sleeves Beaded Tea Length Mother of the Bride Dress
 

Short Sleeves Beaded Tea Length Mother of the Bride Dress

$69.99

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

This entry was posted in 1950's Fashion History on by .

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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