Let's Have a Party: 1950s Party Dresses

Let's Have a Party: 1950s Party Dresses


Colvard Student Union Art Gallery


Lori Neuenfeldt


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Let's Have A Party exhibition title and a black silhouette of a party dress.

On display for a limited time in the Colvard Student Union Art Gallery the MSU Historic Costume and Textiles Collection in partnership with the Department of Art presents Let's Have a Party! an exhibition exploring dress styles of 1950s party culture.

The 1950s was a decade of celebrations and parties. The years after World War II brought optimism and many lifestyle changes in America. A growing number of families moved away from downtowns and into brand new “cookie-cutter” homes in the suburbs. New man-made materials made everything from home goods to clothing more affordable. Consumerism, or the drive to own more things, also motivated homeowners in search of entertainment. Newspapers covering events from the 1950s report on numerous social gatherings and parties. Even the music of the decade responds to the importance of parties. Written in 1957 by Jesse Mae Robinson and first recorded by Elvis Presley, the rock n’ roll song “Let’s Have a Party” became a hit in 1958 when it was sung and released by Wanda Jackson. The simple lyrics emphasize the fun of a spontaneous house party. From cocktails to formal dinners, birthdays to school dances, there was a party for everyone and a fashionable dress for every party.

In this new exhibition, nineteen vintage garments from MSU's Historic Costume and Textiles Collection are arranged in eight party-themed displays created by the students in Department of Art Instructor Lori Neuenfeldt's Spring 2024 Survey of Historic Costume class. Visitors to the gallery will see authentic dresses showing the different styles of the 1950s.

The exhibition is free and open February 20 through March 3 in the Colvard Student Union Art Gallery, located on the second floor of the Colvard Student Union on MSU's main campus. The MSU Historic Costume and Textiles Collection is operated by the School of Human Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Photograph of a 1950s sleeveless silk floral print dress with a full skirt.Photograph of a 1950s green floral print dress with full skirt and brown silk bow belt.