The 50s…The Sock Hop and the Poodle Skirt

dancing in poodle skirt at 1950s sock hop

dancing in poodle skirt at 1950s sock hop

A 1950s sock hop is probably the most common event theme of the fifties decade. Visions of teenagers twirling in felt poodle skirt costumes, white lace socks, and saddle shoes make me want to jump in and dance with them. While the poodle skirt look has been shown in nearly every 50s movie, in every sock hop scene, for the last 60 years it was not the only thing young women wore to a sock hop, nor was it the most popular. Let me show you how to dress for a 1950s sock hop as authentically as possible with a poodle skirt or not!

Poodle skirt costume from Spirit_

50s Poodle Skirt Costume at Spirit Halloween

Poodle Skirt Costumes

1950s skirts were trendy items teens would wear. They could wear dresses too but the 50s were the era of mixing and matching separates. A girl’s skirt matched her cardigan sweater, neck scarf, belt, and bag. Being coordinated was a big deal. Having a big fluffy skirt was an even bigger deal. The bigger the better. Girls would layer on petticoats for maximum fullness or use a hoop skirt which was bigger and lighter. Hoop skirts, however, had some problems. They were difficult to sit it, were prone to flipping up in the wind, and showed visible hoop lines underneath thin cotton dresses.  All of these issues were solved when someone had the bright idea to use wool felt instead of thin dress fabrics. The thick felt made circle skirts easy to sew (no hemming edges), light to wear (only a yard or two was needed instead of the usual 5 yards) and never showed a hoop skirt line. Hallelujah!

Teens and women added felt circle skirts to their (mostly winter) wardrobes. They then spruced them up with cute appliques of animals, seasonal themes, and catchy phrases like “See you later alligator.” Adults avoided these cute themes but did decorate their skirts with rick rack, zig-zags, stars, and flower appliques.  One of the original 50s skirts featured three poodles with leashes attached to the skirt band. The ’50s were obsessed with all things French and the French walked small dogs, like poodles.

50s skirts and tops

L – Novelty 1957 circle skirts- butterflies, toys, plaid, dancing dolls for girls R – Teen knit tops and cardigan sweaters

Skirts were usually paired with a white button-down blouse with round peter pan collar.  They could also have pointed collars and come in a range of pastel colors.  Some poodle skirt looks were worn with striped knit tops, sleeveless button-down shirts, short sleeve knit sweaters or cardigans, and long sleeve oesknit tops or sweaters. The twin set, short sleeve knit top with matching knit cardigan sweater, is another iconic pairing with 50s poodle skirts.  Any and all of these 1950s tops would have been worn with skirts to a sock hop.  Learn more about and shop for ’50s tops. 

1957 neck scarf

1957 neck scarf

Most teens preferred the plain knit top or sweater because they looked best with a chiffon or silk neck scarf. Tied to one side of the neck in a simple knot they were the perfect accessory! This is the one item 1950s Halloween costume designers got right.  Most scarves were a solid color that matched the skirt or at least a belt.  If it wasn’t worn around the neck it could be tied around the hair like a headband or around a high pony tail, aka the 50s cheerleader look.

Speaking of accessories, poodle skirts needed a wide belt. Maybe not need, but looked best with a wide cinch belt or shiny vinyl belt that matched the skirt. The belt both nipped in the waist and held down blouses that were prone to riding up. Knit tops and sweaters that were worn over skirt bands did not need belts. Shop 1950s belts here. 

1950s Socks and Shoes

Moving down the leg we get to socks and shoes. Socks were white, almost always white, and folded down three times to create a neat cuff around above the ankle. they were called Bobby socks. Many 50s costumes include white socks with a ruffle lace edge. I have over 20 clothing catalogs from the 1950s and NONE of them have lace edge sucks for sale. I am not sure where this trend originated but it certainly wasn’t part of the 1950s. Lace socks probably came about in the 1960s when the “doll look” was in style. My favorite ‘50s socks are Gold Toe thin cotton socks. 

1957 saddle shoesWearing shoes to a sock hop was necessary, dancing in them was optional.  Black and white saddles shoes are the most iconic and certainly very popular among teens. You can’t go wrong wearing saddle shoes. Consider other two-tone colors too- blue, tan, gray, and even pink. Other shoe styles were slip on loafers (penny loafers) and black ballet flats. Flatties were never worn with socks. Women could wear high heels but teens could not. That, along with wearing stockings, was a right of passage into adulthood. Shop 1950s shoes. 

1950s Poodle Skirt CostumeThe Poodle Skirt Costume Summary:


Alternative Sock Hop Clothing

Poodle skirts aside, most teens wore swing dresses, pencil skirts & tops, or swing skirts & twin sets to a school or church dance. These were usually semi casual affairs meaning not a dress up event although they look very dressed up in our eyes today. Prom was the most formal 1950s dance. Sock hops were after school / weekend events where teens wore whatever they normally wore to school.  Here are some examples:

1957 Teen dresses, skirt and top separates and a jumper dress_

1957 Teen dresses, skirt and top separates and a jumper dress_

  1. Felt skirt with floral applique worn with red knit short sleeve top
  2. Two pieces yellow jumper top and sheath skirt over a white, high neck, 1/2 sleeve blouse, and white gloves
  3. Blue boat neck top with matching window pane swing skirt and light blue belt
  4. Pale blue button down peter pan collar blouse, black thin necktie, black sash belt and plaid swing skirt
  5. Grey swing dress with dolman sleeves and red and white trim
  6. Lace collar trimmed red taffeta dress and heels (for a dressy party)

These are just a few examples of 1950s teen clothing. You can create your own look using ready to wear 1950s inspired clothing. The following are some ideas customers have asked for.

Your Sock Hop Costume

Polka dot dresses are very popular 1950s dresses. They would look great on the sock hop dance floor too. You can choose to wear a petticoat for extra fluff or keep it simple without. Add a wide cinch belt, neck scarf, socks and saddles shoes. 

Polka Dot Sock Hop Outfit- Classic!

Polka Dot Sock Hop Outfit- Classic!

Knit top, blue swing skirt and two tone heels from Unique Vintage

This is cute as is! Knit top, blue swing skirt and two tone heels from Unique Vintage. 

A ballet dancing skirt

A ballet dancing skirt needs ballet flats.

Many teens wore the opposite, pencil skirt_

You don’t have to wear a full skirt to a sock hop. Many teens wore the opposite, pencil skirt, to a dance. They were great to do the “twist” in. Unique Vintage

1950s prom dress_

1950s prom dress for a formal sock hop from ModCloth

What will you wear to a 1950s Sock Hop?

If you need help with your look, just ask!

Original article from the Vintage Dancer. Please visit them.

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