Teddy Girls of the 1950s…Rocking the Gibson Girl of the 1900s

A couple months ago I posed a question on the Bobby Pin Blog. It centered around the thoughts of young people and their experimentation with vintage looks. You can see the original post here. Something to Ponder.

It centered around the way I thought about vintage when I was in high school. In high school in the 90s, I questioned some of the looks of the 60s (although liked some others). But I loved the looks of the 1930s.

So my question was, “Do you suppose the teenager of the 1950s questioned the look of the 1920s, but coveted the glamour of the 1890s?” 

I posed the question more sarcastically than anything. I would figure the girls of the 50s wouldn’t feel they could relate to such a conservative time period, which is stupid really since those of us into the early and mid-20th century are doing the same thing…romanticizing a much more conservative time period.

And I got my answer to my question from a reader. Yes…teenagers of the 1950s coveted the glamour of the 1890s. More specifically, they drew inspiration from Edwardian times of the very early 1900s, but that time in fashion was very much a continuation of fashion of the late 1890s.

I have learned that the Teddy Girls in Great Britain of the 1950s, who were the punk rock girls of their time, were very inspired by certain aspects of Edwardian women (and men). They styled their hair very Gibson Girl, swept up on top, and wore Edwardian tailored jackets.

London, England: 1955. Teddy girls photographed by Ken Russell.

These ladies were essentially the female counterparts to the Teddy Boys, a working class youth movement that were sort of the young punk gangs of the UK and its territories. The Teddy Boys and Teddy Girls were in the headlines often for general young hoodlum behavior, including the infamous movie theater riot that prompted a huge ban on Bill Haley and His Comets song “Rock Around the Clock” due to its influence on young people to riot.

London, England: 1955. Teddy girls photographed by Ken Russell.

Here’s a quote from EdwardianTeddyBoy.coma great resource about the entire movement, on how the style of Edwardian times made it into popular fashion of the Teddy Boys/Girls.

According to the website, “In the early 1950’s Tailors on Saville Row started reproducing Edwardian suits for wealthy young clients that worked in the City of London. These luxurious clothes attempted to reassert the sartorial supremacy of both the Saville Row tailors, and that of the wearers.  This Edwardian style bespoke dress was a signifier of class, almost an attempt to revive a pre-war notion of class heirarchy in the face of the advancing social mobility of the working and middle classes.”

London, England: 1955. Teddy girls photographed by Ken Russell.

“For working class youths to appropriate a clearly upper class dress style for their own purposes was a serious challenge to the old order. The original Teddy Boys used back street tailors or bought suits second hand, and although it began as something of a London style, by the 1950’s gangs of be-draped teenagers could be found throughout Britain’s cities and towns.”

According to the author, their fashion was aesthetic, but also a slap in the face to upper class society in rebellion against the class system.

London, England: 1955. Teddy girls photographed by Ken Russell.

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  1. Thanks for the Edwardian Teddy Boy link! So much information, I can’t wait to read through it all! I love it in the past when we have visited London and see old Teds and their faded tattoos. Classic!

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Welcome to the Bobby Pin Blog! I am Lauren Rennells and as a hairstylist, makeup artist, writer, and generally artistic over-achiever, the Bobby Pin Blog is my outlet for thoughts and research about vintage hair and makeup trends and how to recreate them today. Thank you for stopping by!

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