For much of the 1950s people dressed rather formally for any occasion outside the home. Women wore dresses or skirts and blouses, and men wore suits and ties. Children had play clothes but dressed up for school each day. As the decade wore on, new trends in casual wear began appearing at relaxed outings such as picnics and sporting events.
Women wore pants around the house throughout the '50s, and as new styles came into vogue they began to wear them to informal social outings. They wore capri pants that came just below the knee and ranged from form fitting to loose and relaxed. Women also wore cigarette pants, which ended just above the ankle and had a very slim fit and hugged a woman's curves. They also wore Bermuda, or walking shorts, that came to their knees. With any of these bottoms they wore halter tops that tied around their necks or blouses that were short sleeved or sleeveless.
Men wore polo shirts and sports jackets on informal occasions, which was considered quite casual compared to the conservative suits they wore to work each day. As styles relaxed further, men began wearing khakis or chinos with short sleeved, knit Ban-Lon shirts. They wore cardigan sweaters or cotton, windbreaker jackets instead of blazers and sports jackets. Patterned, short-sleeved polo shirts in plaids and stripes became trendy, as did casual buttoned shirts with tropical and floral Hawaiian themes.
Many parents didn't allow girls to wear the shapely cigarette pants or shorts that their mothers wore. Girls did wear loose-fitting capri pants, but for much of the decade they wore skirts for even casual social occasions and wore pants only at home or to play outside. Dirndle skirts became trendy and were comfortable and inexpensive. The simple skirts came to mid-calf and slipped on with an elastic banded waist. Girls wore them with short-sleeved blouses or sweatshirts in gray or pastel colors, which were very casual but more fitted than modern-day sweatshirts.
Boys were the fashion leaders in the '50s when it came to wearing casual clothes such as jeans outside the home. Men wore denim dungarees, as they were called, for leisure activities or sports, but teen boys took the lead from big screen idols such as James Dean, and began rolling up the cuffs of their dungarees and wearing them with T-shirts. This would make the look acceptable for girls too, by the second half of the decade. Boys also wore khaki pants and short-sleeved polo shirts like their dads when they dressed down.