4 major themes that were prevalent in the 1950s were:
1) Keeping various aspects of life traditional
2) Breakthrough of new styles and ideas
3) Rise in teenage culture and rock and roll
4) WWII reactions, fears, and reflections
The body shape to be desired by women was an hourglass figure, or a thin waist but defined hips. Dresses of the day reflected this in their patterns. In addition, though some dresses had large, pleated skirts, others were becoming slimmer and more form fitting. Dresses and skirts of the day were also slightly shorted than in previous times.
Many new pieces of technology, especially those involving housework, were invented at around this time. Likewise, the advertisements reflected this. In addition, such advertisements also reflected the gender roles at the time.
Many ads that featured womens products were advertised in a way that reflected the periodical belief that a woman must please her husband in every way. The ad above also promotes unnecessary bodily standards for women. The ad is for socks, yet it features a model in a bathing suit.
1950s traditional gender roles were that the women stayed home, cleaned to house, cooked the meals, and cared for the children. Men were the breadwinners, having outside, paying jobs to financially support the family. Men were also the heads of the household and all of the members were submissive to the fathers.
In 1954, the landmark Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education rules that the "Separate but Equal" policy under Plessy vs. Ferguson is unconstitutional. The graph above depicts the degree of segregation in the country.
Especially when discussing Civil Rights, Rosa Parks is most famous for her refusal to give up her seat on a public bus to a white passenger in 1955. This event caused the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a boycott of public buses by many blacks in order to protest segregated buses.
Elizabeth Eckford, shown in this famous picture, was one nine blacks students who attended and integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. Known as the "Little Rock Nine," these students were subjected to ridicule, bullying, and humiliation by their classmates to the point where federal troops were sent to escort them.
Abstract Expressionism is a type of art that developed at the time. Though paintings all classified as abstract expressionist vary in style, the genre typically features abstract, emotional, and spontaneous acts. "Woman III," the work above is a 1953 painting by Willem de Kooning, an abstract expressionist. Other famous abstract expressionist painters include Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, and Franz Kline.