I suppose everyone could have a style of music that fascinates them, and for me, that era of music is early Rock & Roll. There’s something enticing about the time period when different musical genres were being poured into a melting pot until something new and edgy surfaced as a product. Early versions of this music can hold a different name as well, something more specific than just Rock & Roll. This name is Rockabilly, and it grounds the time frame of the music into its earliest stage. Despite this connection to such an early time, however, the appeal of the music and Rockabilly culture lives on today so that newer music of the genre can still be purchased and attire that looks straight out of the 1950s can be worn to showcase an adoration of the time frame.
The question could become why this particular style of music and clothing has had such staying power. Maybe the answer resides in the idea that it’s so unchanging. While Rock & Roll continued to evolve and grow, Rockabilly has potentially remained more stationary, with later artists mimicking the sounds of their predecessors. In this, it has become almost a time capsule—a way to look back into the time when something as large as Rock & Roll was beginning, with little variation. With that frame of mind, it’s no wonder that people over the years have continued to embrace it.
But while it’s easy to embrace the music of the time by buying some Johnny Burnette tunes, knowing how to embrace the clothing of the era could prove a bit trickier if you don’t know what to look for. So if you want to dive into Rockabilly fashion, keep reading for tips on how to achieve the look!
Put Some Spin on It
One of the trademarks of Rockabilly fashion is a swinging dress, but there are certain elements that make a dress fit the style. These elements can vary, but often the perfect Rockabilly dress comes with a whole lot of spin. This concept actually makes solid sense if you think about the styles of dances that are so connected to 50s music and the beginning of Rockabilly since the swish and sway of spin-about dresses were potentially treated like extensions of Jive spins and Lindy Hop footwork.
For this reason, if you’re going Rockabilly (actual dancing is not needed!), you might choose a dress that’s what I’ve referred to as a “turn-around” that expands outward from waist down. Keep in mind, though, that this is a recommendation since slimmer fitting dresses can also embrace a Rockabilly flair. To utilize the Rockabilly style in this slimmer way, you might want to look for other elements that are often synonymous with Rockabilly fashion, like a considerable amount of space between your neck and the dress’s material. These details can make your dress stand out as something straight out of the 50s.
The Rockabilly Patterns
Another detail to consider when deciding on a Rockabilly style is the pattern of your clothes. These days, it’s easy to find Rockabilly-esque clothing items that have things like skulls on them, but if you want something a bit more classic, you might think of exploring other options. Cherries, for instance, are a great representation of the time period, and choosing a cherry pattern gives your attire an instant Rockabilly boost. Polka dots are also highly connected to 50s fashion and the Rockabilly style, so an all-over print with offsetting solid colors for straps and belt can ground a look in the musical concept.
Other possibilities for designs are bold, solid colors—like a deep red, green, or blue—or floral patterns. These might be a bit harder to connect to the Rockabilly idea since they can be included in so many other fashion categories, so if you go with these patterns for a dress, make sure you choose a design that embraces other elements of the style. If you choose a solid blue, for instance, make sure it has that spin-about quality or the daring neckline that screams Rockabilly fashion.
Don’t Go Too Long!
While there are variations on certain elements of Rockabilly clothes, like patterns or slimness, there’s one element that is arguably concrete if you want to showcase the style. That detail is the length of a dress or skirt. In general, always keep the length just below the knees. The reasons as to why this length has become so connected to Rockabilly fashion are questionable—maybe it’s connected to swing dancing once more—but the length is a standard detail for an ideal Rockabilly selection. If it goes shorter or longer, it’s not Rockabilly!
Use a Little Lace
Another possible detail of a Rockabilly clothing choice is the presence of just a little bit of lace, often surrounding the collar in a sleek fashion. This is nowhere near a requirement to embrace the fashion category, but it’s an elegant element to boost the look of your clothing. It’s still ready to sway—right or wrong—but it’s got a touch of sophistication to go along with it.
Don’t Forget the Accessories
As with a number of fashion categories, Rockabilly fashion can be boosted by choosing the right accessories. Specifically, a wide belt across the stomach screams Rockabilly, as does a pair of sleek sunglasses or the right choice of hair décor. Whether it’s a scarf tied around your hair or a big flower setting in your locks, the right hair choice can truly bring the Rockabilly look together in a way that few other elements can do. If you want the full Rockabilly look, don’t forget that hair accessory or the 50s glasses to bring in multiple levels of Rockabilly flair.
Bows are big deals for Rockabilly as well, whether they’re the things that tie your scarfs together or added bonuses to belt lines. Remember to keep those bows basic, though. If you overshoot and step into too-fancy territory, it escapes the classic look of simple Rockabilly. Basically, when choosing your bow accessories, make sure that there’s little more to the bow than just what you’d need to tie one yourself. By keeping this reeled in, your Rockabilly style is heightened.
You might also think of adding a leather jacket to the outfit to elevate the Rockabilly look. Of course, there are plenty of leather jacket styles to choose from, but if you decide on one for the sake of Rockabilly fashion, be sure to go a bit more biker—ends just around the waist, has elevated shoulders, and comes with a number of zippers. When in doubt, think Grease to come up with the leather jacket for your Rockabilly ensemble, and you could have the perfect outerwear to keep you warm and showcase your musical fascination.
If you think that you just can’t pull off a leather jacket without looking ridiculous, try trading in your outwear for a jean jacket since they can also deliver a Rockabilly vibe. Just remember that this is an old-school musical style, and a jean jacket with a more dated look can help to cement the feel—like a faded jean material. It also helps to have those sleeves folded up about an inch or so beneath your elbows, maybe even with a Rockabilly patch or two decorating the material—like the logo of your favorite Rockabilly band or a flower to represent one of those tried and true Rockabilly patterns that were already covered. Little details like these can do wonders for that Rockabilly vibe in your clothes!
One other accessory to consider is a pair of high heels. Few things say Rockabilly like shoes that boost you a few inches higher to make the outfit stand out that much more. Be sure, however, that you don’t choose high heels for your every outing since they can cause health problems if you wear them too often. For an occasional Rockabilly look, though, pick up pair of shiny heels.
The End Result…
By paying attention to these details, you could find that you’re looking like a true Rockabilly star, whether for an errand run around your town or for a 50s style party you’re planning to attend. No matter the reason behind your dive into Rockabilly life, these general tips can help you bring the look to life—despite the multiple decades that have passed since it surfaced!