How to Dress Like a 1950s Housewife

When you mention 1950s housewife many people think of Donna Reed. She always wore a beautiful shirtwaist dress with her hair done just so. Or you may think of the TV shows or movies that brought back the ’50s look like “Happy Days”, “American Graffiti” and “Grease.” In this article we will show you how to use retro fashions for a ’50s housewife look. This 3-4 piece outfit is easy to put together and will help you look and feel the part.

Let’s start with The Dress: it should be a cheerful, light print in floral, checks or solid. The best is a classic vintage shirtwaist dress with a fitted waist and a flared or full skirt. It buttons or zips in the front and often has cuffed sleeves. If you have trouble finding a vintage shirtwaist dress then check in stores that sell house dresses and look for a simple style in vintage prints and colors like tiny rose prints or even kitchen prints. Avoid loud colors or polyester. Cotton or poly cotton will look the most authentic. The length should be mid calf or just below the knees. Be sure to wash the dress several times to make it more lived in and authentic looking.

Next, what says “housewife” more than an apron? Check vintage or thrift stores for a full or half vintage or new apron with a retro print. Be sure to look for one that makes a big bow in the back. If you can’t find a convincing retro print, pastel or plain colors can work as well. Stitch on ric rac for an extra kitschy touch or tuck a hankie in the pocket and let a little bit peek out. It’s also a good idea to tie a sheer scarf on one of the apron ties, because you never know when you’ll have to put up your hair and pitch in to get something done.

Finally, you’ll need to add some 50’s period details. These could be a circle pin, a string of pearls, button earrings or cateye glasses. Try pulling your hair back and tying it with a scarf in a triangle shape tied in the back under your hair, or pull it around and tie it on top with bunny ears. Shoes should be low heels, ballet flats, or loafers. You can casually throw a cardigan sweater over your shoulders and add a sweater guard to hold it firmly in place. Purse should be big enough for your wallet, lipstick, keys to the station wagon and your coupon book. And don’t forget your eyeglasses on a chain.

Now you have your 50’s housewife outfit together. How will you get all your chores, washing and dusting done yet still have time to touch up your lipstick and keep your bouffant hairdo looking fresh? Let’s be grateful for all the modern appliances that helped ease the household work and left more time for fashion and fun.

Fun Fact: The average homemaker in the 1950’s spent over three hours a day preparing meals, cooking and feeding her family. New products were introduced in the 50’s that were designed to make life easier for the average homemaker. These products included Saran Wrap, microwave ovens, nonstick pans, Kraft Foods’ pre-sliced cheese, the Sunbeam Mixmaster, and Mrs. Paul’s frozen fish sticks. Yum!

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