If you are into vintage fashion, you must be in a dilemma between rockabilly and pin-up styles. Rockabilly clothing was the trend in the 50s while pin-up outfits were inspired by the 40s. Simply put, rockabilly and pin-up clothing are a generation apart. “Rockabilly” is a term derived from combing the names of two music genres, rock n’ roll and bluegrass, also known as hillbilly music.
Rockabilly fashion as we have come to know these days was created during one of American history’s biggest economic expansions that spurred both excess and consumerism. The 50s became the showcase for clothes that defined conformity and less of individual identity. Women, especially, were expected to achieve a certain “look” with each of the five different kinds of outfits they wore.
To Please and Impress
Clothing for women got sorted out for housework and lounging around, running errands, maternity wear, attending parties and other social gatherings, and, for the emerging working middle class, office or work uniforms. Regardless of what kind of clothing, however, the different styles of the 50s were designed to please and impress husbands, bosses of husbands, neighbors, employers, and friends, among others.
Rockabilly clothes defined a lady’s social class in the 50s, albeit there weren’t many choices for styles throughout this decade, with outfits that were similar in silhouette and shape for the majority, varying only in fabric type, pattern or color. Matching outfits, also known as “mother and daughter” dresses, were prevalent and there was much expectation to either impress people or keep up with them.
Rockabilly for Men
Men’s fashion in the 50s changed little and choices were narrowed down to similar styles and fabrics for suits, casual wear, sweaters, slacks, sports coats. Business clothes remained unchanged except for the occasional bolder patterns that usually emerged but only for casual wear. Manual laborers wore uniforms reminiscent of military uniforms. Suits were always neutral colors and ties were always in simple designs like stripes.
When mens rockabilly clothing came into the scene, it was largely due to the influence of James Dean, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley and was characterized by denim and leather biker jackets, bowling and plaid shirts, black jeans, and chunky boots or two-toned brogues. Today’s rockabilly outfits, however, have edgier undertones that have elements of indie looks and punk rock like full sleeve tattoos.
The Other Side to Rockabilly Fashion
Today’s wearer of rockabilly can exude a carefree attitude and a cool expression that can be pulled off authentically with the appropriate pieces of apparel. For women, there are the dresses with full skirts and Peter Pan collars, fabric materials that are peppered with tiny, dainty flowers and polka dots, and accents such as ribbons and bows. There is, however, another side to Rockabilly fashion.
This other side stems from that defiant style of the 50s’ “bad girls” who wore tight sweaters, pencil skirts, off-the-shoulder blouses, high waist bathing suits, high heels, and capri pants. Match any of those with red lipstick and a leather jacket and you have the classic Pink Lady from “Grease.” Pin-up outfits are also reflective of the 50s style but extend to the fashion of the 60s.
Glamorous Icons of Fashion
Pin-up girl clothing is associated with Bettie Page, Jayne Mansfield, and Marilyn Monroe and connotes, almost exclusively, the image of a sultry and sexy seductress. Pin-up girls in the 50s also included women with “wholesome” images, the kind every man wants to bring home to meet his mother, such as Sandra Dee, Cyd Charisse, and Suzy Parker who dressed in clothes that had small swallows, red cherries, and anchors.
Pin-up girls are models who have their photographs mass produced for displaying informally, as in “pinned up” on the wall. They were not necessarily sex symbols but glamorous icons of fashions. Think Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly who wore form-fitting, albeit never figure hugging, dresses, colorful accessories, feminine nylons, and flared or ruffled skirts.
Rockabilly and Pin-Up Outfits Redesigned
There is no shortage of rockabilly or pin-up clothing these days and you don’t need to sweat it out in the aisles of thrift and vintage stores to find them. Online specialty stores and boutiques sell various outfits that range from sweet to flirty to seductive to feminine, including plus size rockabilly clothing at very affordable prices. The pin-up and rockabilly clothes of today, however, have been redesigned to fit the times.
Given that, the woman of today can wear both rockabilly and pin-up outfits such as halter necked dresses and tops, cigarette pants, short-sleeved dresses and shirts, swing and pencil skirts, cropped trousers, sarong dresses, and capri pants, among others. The colors that represent the era of pin-up and rockabilly clothes include the classic black, white, navy blue, and red.
Choose from various motifs such as horse shoes, spider webs, bows, anchors, swallows, cherries, ribbons, and skulls, patterns like checked gingham, dice, houndstooth, tartan, stripes, leopard print, stripes, and polka dots, and necklines with names like Sabrina, Peter Pan, off-the-shoulder, haltered, sweetheart, and boat. Get A-line skirts, wiggle and swing dresses, ¾ sleeved cardigans, petticoats, and full-sleeved cropped cardigans.
Investing in Just a Couple of Pieces
If you aren’t sure whether the pin-up or rockabilly look is for you, invest in just a couple of pieces for each style; this way, you would not have spent so much on items which you weren’t satisfied with. If you find that either style is what you want, go comparison shopping for the same items from different online stores; it’s like bargain hunting but on the internet. Remember that cheap doesn’t always mean good quality.
This means knowing the kind of material, especially the fabrics, which went into the manufacture of the clothing. Remember that the words “vintage” and “retro” before rockabilly clothing or pin-up outfit mean two different things. The former means the item is actually from the era it claims to be while the latter means that the item, while it has the features of an era when it is supposed to come from, was made recently.