The Evolution of Women’s Rockabilly Fashion

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“Well, my baby and me went out late Saturday night
I had my hair piled high and my baby just looked so right
Well-ell, pick you up at ten, gotta have you home at two
Mama don’t know what I got in store for you
But that’s all right, ’cause we’re looking as cool as can be”
“Rock This Town”
-Stray Cat

Rockabilly fashion is a strong memory in the history of fashion. Curve hugging dresses in bright cherry prints accessorized with curved-toe heels and a large flower in the hair are all a part of what the public identifies as 1950’s rockabilly style. What now is a signifier of “retro” style, was actually a part of a rich music-based culture that has lasted to present time.

Rockabilly fashion developed after the tight binds of World War II, when fabric was scarce and fashion was on a major delay. The economy was rising and those raised during the war were becoming young adults. This was when what we consider as “teenage years” developed in society, and subcultures began to rebel against their parents. Arts like fashion and music ruled the teenage mind, with those more concerned about their appearance than tending to the family homestead.

This era borne the rockabilly. Evolving out of a music style of the same name, rockabilly was a Southern rock music genre that embraced casual clothing in a stylized manner.
For young females, the beauty styles of this genre was ultra feminine red lips and curled hair that was paired with casual fashion separates like pegged jeans and pull-over sweaters, a first for its time. At night, women wore close fitting, sweetheart “wiggle dresses” with round toe heels.

Just like teens today, young females looked to the styles of famous actresses and performers like the ultra-feminine actress Jayne Mansfield in her tight sweater tops and cheetah-printed attire. Although considered a bad influence at the time, the pin-rolled hair and winged eyes of pinup Bettie Page is a prime example of the beauty during that fashion era.

This subculture resurged during the mid-2000’s with it appearing on notorious singer and fashion icon Amy Winehouse. Winehouse’s signature look was defined in a black, towering beehive, dark winged eyeliner and tight, sweetheart-neckline clothing that’s sexy edge modernized the looks.

During Winehouse’s reign, and quickly after her death, the fashion world showed their appreciation for her style through high end editorials and fashion shows at Jean Paul Gaultier’s Spring 2012 Couture season and Chanel’s 2008 Pre-Fall looks. This cemented Winehouse’s rockabilly icon status with the likes of Elvis and Ms. Page.

The modern Rockabilly has emerged into a subculture that includes plus-sizes and women of color. Unlike its teenage origins, the styles of rockabilly have grown up into one fine Betty.

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