Culture of the 1950s

Perhaps more pointedly than anything else, 1950s TV ads take you directly into the mindset of the time. I have also included runway films that showcase the fashions for women and men. 

Trigger Warning: be forewarned that you will be shocked by the objectification and limitations put on women in particular in these images/ads.  Advertisements pushed a woman to groom herself to attract, marry, and then keep a man through her pleasing appearance and expertise at running a clean, neat household.  According to these ads, her primary purpose was to support her husband in his goals and to nurture well-behaved, successful children. Often, husbands were presented as “long-suffering,” putting up with her “frivolous” expenditures on clothes and new hairstyles—the very things she has been inculcated to believe granted her worth. SUSPECT RED’s Abby and Teresa are examples of 1950s women who managed to find themselves within those constraints. Natalia and Ginny are the future—poised to break them open.

The ads are also a reminder of the pressures put on men. Being a stalwart member of the community, popular with the guys, a reliable breadwinner, motivated by the promise of owning a house with a two-car garage—not much room to show emotions or much incentive to choose professions that didn't guarantee steady income and affluence.

At the end of the list are links to two films about teen dating. Those two will be real eye-openers. Please know that I do not agree with any of the prejudices and sentiments put on the young teen mother. It is a window into attitudes that our society has worked hard to dispel that it is the girl’s job (and stigma if she “fails”) to prevent premarital sex or unwanted advances. Sadly, we are still fighting to make mutual respect the responsibility of both people in a relationship.  Look at today’s ads and see if you think our society has taken enough strides forward.


Montage of Different Ads


Hoover Vacuum

Car Commercial


Hostess Twinkies

Cake mix

Shirley Temple Doll

Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head

Yo Yos

Toys of “the Future” (including an atomic canon and flying saucers)

Laundry and Housekeeping

Playtex Girdles and Bras

Hygiene (bandaids, shaving, deodorant)



A Look Back at General 1950s Fashion and Image: 

Women's Fashion

Women’s Hairstyles



Hats and Swim Caps 

Men's Fashion

Men's Hairstyles

Eyeglass Fashion

Lifestyle Instruction Films: Teen Relationships

“Beginning to Date”

“How Much Affection”

"How to Party"