The Charm and Simplicity of 1950s Parisian Fashion

What is it about Paris fashion that charms us so? Especially that of old movies and photographs. So iconic. So inspiring.

The photo below shows a model wearing one of Christian Dior’s dresses from 1951. She is the picture of that 1950s Parisian look I have in my mind.

1950s Christian Dior model.
Photo from GlamourDaze.com.

Her look is polished and in many ways simple. She wears a crisp white dress with delicate little dragonflies and bees embroidered on the fabric. Her hat, earrings, and necklace are simple and “quiet.” Even her silk coat is a muted blue in spite of its being a rich fabric. Nothing is overly loud and garish. The boldest part of this outfit is how the waist flares out dramatically at the hips to create the silhouette I equate with this era.

Can we still get that feel of 1950s Paris fashion today?

This subject is one I have been following around like a toddler after puppy for about a year now. I’ve scoured photo upon photo of Paris fashion in the 50s to try to get a grasp on what really creates the style I can’t quite get out of my head. Is it possible to create a modern outfit out of “regular clothes” that exudes the spirit of Christian Dior’s ensemble? When I discovered the dress below (and the silk topper below that), I had to give it a try.

This look is as close as I can come to the Dior outfit above. Granted, the pattern of my dress is a little “louder” than the Dior dress, but the cut is similar in that it flares out from a cinched waist.

Over this last year, I have discovered that fit-and-flare dresses are the best for my particular figure. One key to fit for this style–especially for petites–is tapering at the natural waist. If the top half of the dress is too long, it would ride up on my torso and poof out with too much fabric, creating bulges where they don’t belong. Same is true if the waist was too short on me–it would make my chest look smaller and I don’t need anything to make my chest look smaller.

This particular dress sits right where it should on my waist. It creates definition and curves where I want them. It also flares out over the parts I’m not as fond of, camouflaging them entirely.

The length here is good as well. On a person with longer legs, it might be a much shorter skirt, possibly even mini. Any longer and it would make my legs look stumpy. This one hits right above my knees, which is perfect.

I purchased this dress last year at Nordstrom, so it is no longer available in stores. Click here for a similar style.

I have never been drawn to wear dresses, even though I find them beautiful. But blogging about fashion has taught me how practical and stylish they can be. They truly are easy to work with. This one just zips up the back. All I have to do is add shoes and jewelry and I’m done. (It even has pockets built into the design!!)

Sticking with the idea of simple accessories, I added the pearl necklace I wrote about for my very first Fab Collab with the ladies of JTouchofStyle.com. It was a gift from my great-grandmother to my mother and somewhere down the line I became the lucky recipient.

The shoes couldn’t be simpler–blush pink mary jane heels.

I bought the Calvin Klein heels from Amazon and they’re still available here, if you’re interested.

Mixing modern with vintage to complete the look

Because it’s Spring outside, I do have to add a layer–it’s not quite sleeveless weather here in Seattle. This one is the same one I wrote about last week for the Fab Collab about pastels. It reminds me a lot of the one the woman is wearing in the Dior photo above!

This one-of-a-kind treasure is what sold me completely on buying vintage. Not only is it made of luxurious silk, it was inexpensive. The same coat today would cost WAY more than I paid. (It was less than $50.) In addition, no one else that I know has one like it.

I bought mine at Lula Vintage in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Here’s one on Etsy that is $38. It’s pink, size small.
To do a general search on Etsy, look for 1950s silk swing coat.

Check out how it skims over the flare of the skirt.

Both the dress and the jacket have so much movement and brightness. Even if it’s dark and gray outside, I feel like the embodiment of Spring!

Pink is for Paris

There are still days here in Seattle when even my silk jacket is too lightweight for the season. If it’s raining outside, a heavier-weight trench comes in handy.

Below is a pink trench coat I’ve had for years. I am currently debating whether it will go up for sale in my Poshmark closet. Want to weigh in on whether I should keep it?

Seeing it in these photos, I realize it has a sort of female James Bond look to it.

Look out villains!

Bottom Line

As I continue to learn about my signature style, I have one takeaway from this lesson: Find a dress that fits my particular body well and keep the rest simple.

Wearing this dress makes me feel all kinds of things: pretty, powerful, put-together. (All words that start with P, like Paris!) It makes me wonder why I don’t dress like this more often. And yet, for as simple as it is, it is a stand-out look. Meaning, I feel like I stand out when I wear it. I don’t know about you, but I have to have the energy to back that feeling up. As an introvert who loves bold fashion this is always a challenge.

Maybe some sunglasses would help?


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  • Sherry!! I love reading your posts—it makes me feel like I’m there with you exclaiming in delight over this dress & both coats!! The colors, the fit—it’s all just gorgeous!!

    Now I have a confession—I’m not a Parisian lover. I know, I know—everyone always loves the way they dress & all. But maybe it’s because everyone else already loves them! I’m more the rooter of the underdog. And so that’s one of the things that I love about this dress. It has more oomph, than the original one you showcased by Dior!
    And both those coats—I think you need them both. They have functionality in different realms!!
    I’m so glad you’ve discovered the appeal of dresses—they really can make getting dressed so easy. And you have the best legs to show off!
    Jodie
    http://www.jtouchofstyle.com

    • Oh, thank you, Jodie! You always know how to cheer me on, even when it’s not your favorite fashion style.

      These kinds of things remind me of art. Some people like Monet others like Andy Warhol–and everything in between. You seem to have an appreciation for the Monets of the world, but I suspect you would always feel more comfortable in bolder colors like those Warhol painted. (Although I actually see you more of a Gauguin girl.) All of it is thrilling in my book, but I do find myself coming back to this “Monet” look of the 1950s French design like Dior’s. You know me–next week I’ll be writing about styles that remind me of Andy Warhol! (Actually, that’s kind of true.)

      Anyway, I always love your insights on my posts. They never cease to churn my curiosity and get me thinking and smiling — and always being grateful for your friendship.

      Hugs,
      Sherry

  • I love dresses like this! I just found a fabulous floral dresses brand! You like absolute stunning in that dress and the coats are perfect with it.

  • Excellent! I’m glad you found a dress that makes you feel this fabulous – and look this fabulous. Sometimes I get an era in my head and thrifting is such a come-what-may exercise that I may have to wait a long time until I find something that satisfies. The opening photo – sigh. Too, too good. And the new vintage blue coat, that’s amazing! I especially like that it’s collarless. If you have room, why not hang on to the pink coat too? We all need to feel like James Bond once in a while. Heh.

    • So true about keeping the pink coat for times when I need a little extra James Bond inspiration. I may have to keep it just for that reason.

      I’m the same way about eras and finding the right thing to fit it. I have several photos that I keep going back to but I haven’t yet found *the things* to pull the look together. I guess that’s part of the whole fun of it?

      Thanks for stopping by, Melanie! I really admire your artistry and creativity and I appreciate your comments.

      – Sherry

  • Totally understand what you’re saying. You have to feel the courage to wear a stand-out outfit. If not, then you’ll feel self conscious and be tugging and messign with the dress the whole time. I think you look pretty in it. With the blue long jacket you look elegant and royal. I could see Kate Middleton in this ensemble. About the pink coat. I think it looks a little bit too big for you, especially in the sleeves. It’s a very pretty color and cut but think how hard it will be for you to whip out your gun and shoot the bad guy with the sleeves getting in the way. Just my two cents Jane. Jane Bond.

    Julia

    • The sleeves!!! Yes–they’re too big. That must by why I haven’t worn this coat as much you as you’d think I would. Although it comes in handy for hiding poisonous darts and oozies (sp?), it does make it more difficult for quick-action, brass knuckle karate chops to the nose when I have to adjust the sleeves first.

      Thanks for your thoughts Jane Bond…I mean, Julia!

      – Sherry

  • I was so certain that I had commented on this post!
    No evidence of that here.=-(
    You look beautiful in this dress. I love these type of prints; a bit like a Rorschach (sp?) but much prettier. The women of Paris seem to have a knack for making an elegant, fashionable statement with minimal clothing and fuss. I think you’ve accomplished that here. Perhaps a lovely dress is one of the best ways to do it. The coat question can only be answered with, KEEP BOTH OF THEM!! I love the pink one best but if they fit in your closet…?

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