Fall fashions for women look back to the 1950s

The look for fall is soft and pretty.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles Times

Fashion is having a bit of an identity crisis this fall. The military-tough, almost street-warrior vibe is still going strong with cargo pants, utility jackets and tailored coats, while fur (both real and faux) is aggressively adorning almost everything from boots to anorak collars. But on the flip side of this heavy, edgy approach to fall dressing is the season’s pulled-together 1950s aesthetic, inspired by the ladylike look of that decade.

Call it a yearning for simpler times, when women wore skirts that hit below the knee and the only boxy thing was a pillbox hat. Fall collections from Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs look to this woman, with longer skirts that fit at the waist and fall full to the shin. Cozy sweaters in pastels and neutrals wrapped around the bodice of a floral cocktail dress or delicate bustier inevitably inject some sex appeal and conjure up images of Brigitte Bardot’s and Sophia Loren’s effortlessly alluring style.

“Fashion is always influenced by some time or another,” says fashion stylist Jen Rade. “It always jumps around from the ‘90s to ‘50s to ‘60s, and I think that right now people are generally feeling like they want to go back to a simpler time.” The sentiment is manifesting itself in the form of below-the-knee circle skirts with waists that hit truly at the waist, for a sleek and clean line through the hips and torso. Sweaters contour to the body, showing off curves but not necessarily skin.

“With fashion, I personally find it sexy when someone doesn’t show a lot of skin, but rather the curves and shape of the body,” says Rade, who implements this technique flawlessly on her client Angelina Jolie. She warns that to wear these longer skirts you must balance the overall look by wearing something smaller or fitted on top and perhaps accentuating the waist with a bow belt. “The long skirts this season also make the legs look really long,” she says. “The waist is high and the length hits around the shin, and it just looks like you’re all legs.”


A shin-length skirt may not seem like the most practical piece for fall in Southern California, where women love to show leg and temperatures remain warm. So it’s important to temper the weight of one with a flimsy silk camisole and lightweight cardigan. Fuzzy sweaters can be layered over cocktail-length floral skirts and dresses to push summer pieces into the cooler months. Leopard-print accents will add charm to a solid gray or black sweater or a tweed dress.

In these transitional months, wearing a cardigan over an ensemble can be the most effortless way to start changing your look from summer to fall. “For warmer climates, look for lighter weights and play with the idea of an updated twin set,” says Simon Kneen, creative director and executive vice president of design for Banana Republic. He adds that mixing up classic cardigans with crazy jewelry or knotted scarves is key, especially when following this 1950s trend. “Don’t take the ladylike look too literally,” Kneen says. “As it can age even the youngest.”

Duly noted.