1957 Back-to-School Fashions

Retro Staff |  3 Comments
1957 Sears Boys Clothing Catalog

1957 Sears Catalog: Boys

Whether the start of school fills you with great excitement and anticipation or with a profound sense of dread, each year we must start anew. With a new school year comes the inevitable shopping trips for new school clothing. Store circulars fill the mailbox and are stuffed into the daily newspapers – it would be difficult not to see what is being touted at the “must-haves” for today’s school kids. (Lucky for me, my two kids wear uniforms to school.)

The rock star/hippie look that has been promoted in recent years sits in stark contrast to the fashions for young people that appeared in this Sears catalog from 1957. Take, for example, the “sharp” sweaters, shirts and ties being suggested for young men in the late ’50s. Unless they’re off to an exclusive prep school, the boys you know today are probably not going to be sporting a tie or one of these snazzy sweaters. As Kevin in the movie, “Home Alone” stated, “You can get beat up for wearing something like that.”

All kidding aside, and as a mother myself, I like the way kids used to dress for school, and am sometimes horrified by what I see some kids wearing (or almost NOT wearing) today. I attended elementary school in the 1960s, and I remember going to public school in a dress every day. We were not allowed to wear slacks, except for gym day. And even then, they were slacks—no jeans were allowed in school. Sneakers were only worn during gym class.

Sears Catalog 1957 Girls Clothing

1957 Sears Catalog: Girls

Even in the ’60s, proper clothing was about conformity rather than used as a means to express oneself.

By the time I was a teen in the ’70s and school dress codes were relaxed, I was in a uniform myself. So my time for self-expression was limited to afters chool hours.

In addition to what is considered to be fashionable, prices are another thing that has changed drastically over the years. In 1957 the price for a boys long-sleeved polo shirt was $1.85 and a girls pullover sweater and mitten set was just $2.83. Of course, the average salary was proportionally lower in the late ’50s, too.

Note the haircuts for the girls and boys in these photos as well. The boys’ cuts are reflective of the cuts popular among men in the late 1950s—very short on the sides and back and a little longer on top. The girls’ styles are sweet medium-length cuts. They’re all neat, clean-cut styles that contrast sharply with today’s “emo” and “punk” styles.

As always, it’s interesting to look back and see where we’ve been.

What do you think of the ’50s school fashions in relation to those of the ’70s, ’80s and even today?

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Last updated: Aug 17, 2009
Filed under: Remember When, Retro Advertising, Retro Library Tagged with: 1950s fashion, catalogs, retro fashion, retro kids