The History of Women's Novelty Print Clothing in the 1950's

The wistful and charming world of 1950's novelty print clothing in womenswear still impacts the hearts and closets of many, especially here at Sarsparilly! These bold prints filled with colorful images, interesting motifs, and amusing designs evoke feelings of nostalgia, and for some, just a bit of sartorial envy. In this blog post, we'll dive into the history of novelty print clothing in the 1950's, exploring its origins, evolution, and impact on women's fashion. So, dust off your poodle skirts, and let's time-travel into the past together!

The Early Years of Novelty Prints:
As the world emerged from the practicality and somber hues of wartime fashion, many were craving something more whimsical and exciting. Novelty prints initially gained popularity in the 1940s but truly blossomed in the following decade as women were given the license to express themselves more boldly through fashion. The central themes of early novelty prints were often nature-centric, featuring bright, kitschy designs that were inspired by flora and fauna, as well as ocean life or landscapes. The colorful and unusual nature of these prints reflected that "fun" had finally returned in the world of fashion, and it was here to stay.

Novelty print 1950's dress

Image via Etsy 

Iconic Prints: A Selection of Notable Designs
Fashion designers and textile companies quickly recognized the public's appetite for these novelty prints and began to experiment with various themes and designs. Some iconic patterns of the era include carousel or carousel horses, Mexican pottery, circus scenes, and Eiffel Tower prints. These sought-after prints often featured scenes, motifs or objects that captured the essence of the time or a vivid feeling of escapism. It was not only about the visual appeal of the prints but also about the emotions they conveyed and the stories they told.

Novelty print skirt

Image via Pinterest

Bringing the Art to the Streets: Novelty Prints and Skirt Silhouettes
The favored clothing item to showcase these elaborate novelty prints was, undoubtedly, the skirt. This seemingly simple garment served as the perfect canvas for designers to bring fantasy and humor to the forefront of women's wardrobes. The voluminous skirts, often worn with layers of petticoats, became the most popular and fashionable way to wear novelty prints. Circle skirts, full gathered skirts, and the much-adored poodle skirt were all popular skirt silhouettes in the 1950s, a fitting foundation for showcasing these eye-catching prints.

1950's skirt pattern

Image via Serenpity Vintage

Beyond Skirts: Novelty Prints Make a Mark in Other Garments
While skirts were undoubtedly the most popular garment to display these quirky prints, they also made a mark in other clothing items. Dresses with full, swirling skirts in the "New Look" style popularized by Christian Dior were another favorite way to incorporate novelty prints into a woman's wardrobe. Additionally, scarves and other accessories offered an understated way to add a touch of whimsy to their outfits. However, the impact of novelty prints transcended beyond clothing, as household textiles such as tablecloths and aprons would also boast these delightful designs.

1950's women in aprons

Novelty Prints: A Reflection of the Times
Following the somber, conservative period of World War II, the public was eager for a taste of something new, different, and playful. Novelty prints delivered just that. The adoration for these captivating prints became a shared experience for women across the United States, Europe, and beyond. This renaissance in women's fashion was not just about individual style; it was a collective reclamation of joy and a sense of personal expression. The designs and themes, though seemingly trivial, were a vision into the optimistic minds of those who were embracing their newfound freedom.

Image via Pinterest

The kaleidoscope of novelty print clothing that filled the 1950's women's apparel market has left an enduring impact on the realms of fashion, personal expression, and popular culture. Those vibrant colors, captivating patterns, and whimsical themes were more than fleeting designs – they were emblematic of a heartfelt return to joy and freedom. Today, novelty prints continue to make a statement for those who appreciate nostalgia intertwined with style. Exploring the history of novelty prints is a fascinating reminder of how fashion can truly embody the joys and emotions of a generation.

March 15, 2023

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