Pants From the 50s

Capris, popular pants for modern women, saw their first heyday in the 1950s.
Capris, popular pants for modern women, saw their first heyday in the 1950s. (Image: Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images)

The 1950s marked an important era in the history of the pant. Stars of cinema and television influenced how pants were worn. For instance, James Dean popularized the jean among young people. Mary Tyler Moore helped to make trousers fashionable when she donned slacks on the 1950s sitcom "The Dick Van Dyke Show," a move which encouraged women to sport pants for style.


Jeans have been popular worldwide for decades. Tragic star James Dean helped to usher in their ubiquity when he wore them in the 1955 film, "Rebel Without A Cause." They quickly became synonymous with rebellion and non-conformist tendencies. Consequently, establishments like schools and movie theaters prohibited the wearing of jeans. This pressure did not stop the young people of the era from rejecting jeans. Rather, they became a mainstay of the youth culture.


Capri pants took on popularity in America with the boom in Italian cinema. But the first capri is attributed to fashion designer Sonja de Lennart, who devised the look for her 1948 Capri Collection. Her fashion attracted the attention of Italian fashion designer Emilio Pucci. Basic black was the original color of choice for capri pants. The 1950s' eventual fascination with tropical themes led to an explosion of greens, pinks and blues in capri styling.

Cigarette Pants

Though capris were widespread in the 1950s, cigarette pants were worn more frequently. The cigarette pant was characterized by a high waist with wide hips, zippers along the sides, 3-inch wide waistband and a slim fit for the leg. Cigarette pants cut at the ankle. It was also customary to wear a thin leather belt with the cigarette pant, with the belt's buckle placed squarely at the waistband's center.

Toreador Pants

Toreador pants are closely related to both the capri and the cigarette pant. These pants typically fall to a mid-calf length, with legs that are roomy and cuffed at the bottom. Initially, their shape and length made them an ideal fit for women who enjoyed biking. They became a frequently seen style marker for summer fashion and athletic wear. Famous celebrities such as Sophia Loren were spotted flaunting toreadors. Clam diggers and calypso pants are synonymous with the pant style.

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