From Cold War to Camelot: ‘50s fashions hit the runway |

From Cold War to Camelot: ‘50s fashions hit the runway

AAUW Nevada County Branch members get into the '50s mood for the upcoming All About Unique Women. Swinging by the Big A Root Beer Drive-in styling their cool '50s threads. Check out that poodle skirt and those bobby socks, and dig those crazy '50s rides thanks to the Roamin’ Angels Car Club.
Submitted to Prospector |


What: All About Unique Women”

Fashion show of 1950s-era fashions

When: 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday

Where: North Star House, 12075 Auburn Road, Grass Valley

Admission is $30 in advance and $35 at the door.

Tickets are available at the Nevada City SPD, Briar Patch, the Book Seller, or online.

The 1950s may have cultivated more iconic women than any other decade. Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Lucille Ball, and Jackie Kennedy exemplified women’s strength, glamour, and grace. They also help make this Sunday’s All About Unique Women event that much more captivating.

Every year, the American Association of University Women puts the spotlight on a decade of women’s style, culture, and societal roles with a vintage fashion show. This year’s theme, the 1950s: Cold War to Camelot, recognizes the Cold War era through the early ‘60s of the Kennedy Administration. The afternoon will include interactive displays, hula hooping contest, period vehicles, live music, photo ops, and silent auction. Local singer Lyra Dominguez will embody Chita Rivera and perform the songs of West Side Story.

Held at the North Star House on Old Auburn Road in Grass Valley, the event is a fundraiser for the Nevada County chapter of the AAUW. The majority of the funds raised will go towards local scholarship programs, which the group has been awarding to young women for decades. This is the fifth annual All About Unique Women runway show.

“We look at the women and style of that particular decade and the women who made a difference,” Martha Rees of the Nevada County AAUW said. “When you’re watching the fashion show, you’re getting a lesson; what’s happening in the world and how they evolved.”

Rees attributes the authenticity of the show to Cherie Oliver of Yesteryear Sierra. Oliver has been spearheading the show since its inception. The first show put the spotlight on women from the turn of the century. From there, they featured suffragists and flappers, the grit and glamour of the 1930s, and last year the “fateful forties.”

Oliver produces period fashion shows throughout the Sierra Nevada and the Bay Area and has accumulated an expansive collection (some 2,000 pieces) of vintage clothing from as early as 1840. She recently did shows inspired by the Great Gatsby and Downton Abbey. She’s enjoyed the research and preparation of this particular era because she herself is a Baby Boomer. She also feels it’s a decade more people can relate to, as it streamlines more into today’s culture.

The styles of the period embraced everything from glamour to rebellion, from blonde bombshells like Monroe and Jayne Mansfield to Natalie Wood’s rebellious turn with James Dean. The decade ended on a cooler note, she says, with softer elegant styles exemplified by Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Oliver says each runway show is a history lecture using vintage fashion as its medium. “I give a history lesson on what’s going on – how these women affect culture. I talk about broader social issues and the movements shaping the decade.”

While the 1950s was a big decade for forming families, Oliver notes that it was also the launching pad for the feminism movement. Women had somewhat of a smooth, glossed over, almost featureless look, she says. However it was during these years that the sexual revolution was being formed. The Feminine Mystique and Sex and the Single Girl were published in 1963 and 1962, respectively, but it was in the ‘50s that Betty Friedman and Helen Gurley Brown were researching and writing. Friedman and Gurley Brown, along with the likes of Donna Reed, Patti Page, and Monroe are prominent sources of inspiration for Oliver.

Oliver hopes that attendees will dress in genre-specific styles (flounced skirts, capris, and ponytails) and mingle with models made up as iconic figures and heroines of the ‘50s. “I love to make history come alive again,” Oliver said.

Admission is $30 in advance and $35 at the door. Tickets are available at the Nevada City SPD, Briar Patch, the Book Seller, or online. The event begins at 2 p.m. and includes Chacewater wine tastings. For more information, go to www.

Katrina Paz is a Nevada County freelance writer.

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