Thursday, May 23, 2013

Let's Promenade Part Two of Three

by Sew Betty and Dot

Are you ready to dance the night away? Let’s go!

Part One of the “Let’s Promenade” ended with the 1940s, when proms began to be more elaborate and more of a “dress-up” affair than they had in previous decades. In the 1950s, the prom developed into the event with which most of us are familiar (whether we went to the dance or have watched any number of movies—think about Grease).  

The postwar economy in America was booming, and with it the concept of “the teenager” became more prevalent. Teens now had more leisure time, and this stage in life was considered unique: no longer a child, not yet an adult. “Teen” magazines proliferated (Seventeen began publishing in 1944, and 16 Magazine in 1958—it was the perfect place to get all the news about the cutest singers and actors, and it spawned a host of similar publications.) And the prom came to take on a new importance as a not-to-be-missed teenage milestone.

While many proms were still held in crepe-paper decorated school gymnasiums, they also began to be held in hotels and country clubs. Boys often wore white dinner jackets and black bow ties. And the girls? Tulle, tulle, and more tulle! Dresses were often strapless, sometimes floor length but frequently princess length and quite often had very full skirts (but not always!). 

Vintage McCall's 4357 Sewing Pattern, 1950s Dress Pattern, Formal Dress Pattern, Bust 36 Inches, 1950s Prom Dress, Evening Dress
McCall’s 4357: SewBettyAndDot
Advance 7704 Vintage 1950s Evening Gown and Day Dress Sewing Pattern Sz 13
Advance 7704 DejaVu Patterns
Vintage 1951 Wedding or Evening Gown Lace Shoulders Peplum and Cape McCalls 8719 Bust 30
McCall’s 8719: sydcam123
1950s Formal Evening Dress Pattern Vogue 7512 Bust 34 Womens Vintage Sewing Pattern Sleeveless with Standaway Collar
Vogue 7512

Wraps (again, often made of tulle) and gloves completed the look (topped by a corsage, of course).

In the early 1960s, styles of the fifties carried over—although the hair got a LOT higher!--but Jacquelyn Kennedy’s elegant style had a huge influence on fashion as the decade progressed. Empire-waist dresses with long straight(er) skirts came into vogue. 

As the decade progressed, just as cultural mores began to relax, the range of styles available to girls seeking to look their best on that special night grew wider. Hair done up in beehives, bubbles, and flips; dresses with sheer sleeves, metallic fabrics (so itchy!), baby doll dresses—but tulle was still a popular choice for prom. 

Simplicity 5679 Womens Evening Dress 1960s Pattern
Simplicity 5679: Denisecraft
Next week we'll see what changes the 1970s to Prom.


  1. Such lovely patterns! I adore that style of dress.

  2. I would never want to go back to High School but I'd sure love to wear some of these beautiful evening gowns. I can't wait for part 3. I was in High School in the early 70's.

  3. So many wonderful dresses! I love the neckline of Vogue 7512 view A. I wouldn't want to go back to high school either Mary but a chance to wear some of these would be fantastic! We need to have a Pattern Patter ball!

  4. Vintage patterns are historic artwork. I love them all!
    You are to be congratulated for producing such a wonderful newsletter.


  5. Oh what a great historical expo you did here. Thanks for the plug on the patterns. I would love to fit into these dresses. They are so elegant. Denisecraft! Publishing with my husband's gmail account :)