Despite many associating the 1950s with conservatism before the decadent liberation of the 1960s, it’s clear it was a decade oozing sex appeal. Numerous cultural icons rebelled and broke through this conservatism, becoming timeless sex symbols.
Venue cannot look at the sex appeal of the 1950s without looking at those masculine icons that still make women swoon (Marlon Brando. Streetcar Named Desire. Topless. Need we say more?) They exude raw sex appeal. In The Wild One, Brando works the biker look with his heavy leather jacket, turn-up jeans and biker boots.
A figure who also adopted this bad-boy look was Elvis Presley, who was rarely seen on stage without his trademark leather jacket and black jeans. His gyrating hips were something completely new and shocking to a 1950s audience. While they had older listeners running in fear, to the teenage youth he was the ultimate symbol of sexual freedom and rebellion, someone who dared to put overt sexuality into the public eye.
Marilyn Monroe is undoubtedly the ultimate female sex symbol of all time. Her pin-up shoots sought to accentuate her beautiful curves with nipped in waists and tight fabrics. For a 1950s audience, the amount of skin bared by pin-up girls like Monroe may have been the most they had ever seen in their lives and she was undoubtedly the biggest sex icon of the day.
While nowadays we are used to seeing women bare their flesh, Monroe’s healthy curves and confident sexuality make her a classic sex symbol.
At the other end of the spectrum were designers who sought to radiate sex appeal whilst remaining elegant. Balmain and Balenciaga both revolutionised the silouhette with the narrow waist and full skirts, while couture houses were in the midst of their golden age.
Their classy, sophisticated looks often included beautiful lace and silk ball gowns, rendered sexy by their plunging necklines. This kind of sex appeal was more subtle in that it was about imagining what was underneath rather than laying everything bare.
These iconic sexual figures and fashions have continued to influence modern day trends with their timeless styles.
Using nipped-in waists and tight body-con dresses to create curves is something that has influenced the burlesque style pioneered by Dita Von Teese. The leather biker jacket also continues to be every fashionista’s staple, for both men and women. While we may never live up to the inherent sexiness of 1950s icons, by channelling their style we can attempt to re-live this gloriously sexy decade.