Fifties Fashions          

Fashion Memories of 1959

by Lynne Lepley

My big sister and I shared a bedroom growing up, so early on I began to learn the lessons of 50’s fashion.

I quickly discovered that beauty required suffering—especially when it came to hair. Every night before bed my sister would roll her hair with brush rollers.

I was not nearly so dedicated. Mom would sometimes persuade me to roll my hair on Saturday night—(just think how pretty you’ll look for Sunday!”), but the pain never seemed worth it to me. I still wonder how my sister could sleep with rollers gouging her head!

Of course, no one can think of 50’s and 60’s hairstyles without memories of home permanents. I endured a lot of Toni and Lilt permanents in my childhood.

Mom would roll those pink, plastic curling rods to just short of yanking the hair out of my scalp—and then drench each one with the horrible-smelling curling solution.

You had to wait for what seemed like an eternity for it to take affect—all the while enduring an itchy scalp and that unforgettable smell! Weeks later, everyone would know that you’d gotten a perm—if the tight curls didn’t tip people off, the smell would!

When it came to the clothes in my sister’s closet, the height of fashion was, of course, the poodle skirt. But cardigan sweaters were the most versatile articles of clothing.

Not only could you wear them in the buttons-in-the-front conventional way, but you could also wear them backwards—buttoned up the back, for a completely different look. Add a strand of pop-it beads, and the ensemble was complete.

I loved my big sister’s beads; and if I was lucky, she would let me pull them apart to make a necklace-bracelet set. To complete the look, shoes were either penny loafers or saddle shoes, worn with white poodle socks.

And what was I wearing? My everyday uniform was a pair of green pedalpushers. and a green striped t-shirt to match.

My mother says that she could scarcely get me to take them off long enough to launder. I can remember putting them on as soon as they came in from the clothesline.

My least favorite article of clothing was any dress with a crinoline. It wasn’t that I didn’t want my dress to stand out—it was just that the crinoline had to be the scratchiest garment ever invented.

For that matter, my black patent Mary Jane shoes were much less comfortable than my Keds, but that was my once-a-week-on-Sunday sacrifice, all for the sake of beauty.

Somehow all that suffering was worth it when my sister let me dab a bit of her perfume on my wrists from the deep blue bottle that read “Evening in Paris.”


Byline: Lynne Lepley is a freelance writer from Maiden, NC. She no longer gets home permanents, yet still enjoys wearing pedalpushers—even though she now calls them capris.


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“Evening in Paris.”

The dark blue bottle with the bullet-shaped lid —the Evening In Paris perfume bottle held a prominent place on my sister’s dressing table.

Plastic curlers

Plastic curlers or “rods” such as these were used in home permanents.

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