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Feb 21, 2024

Miuccia Prada’s fashion revolution and the Fifties revamped

Everything is set at Prada for the new women’s fall-winter 2024/25 runway show by Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons. The creative power couple of Italian fashion will unveil tomorrow the next chapter of their collaborative vision, praised by industry heavyweights for achieving a perfect balance of rigour and minimalistic decorativism, while delving into the significance of uniformity and addressing cultural themes and social urgencies.

Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons at the end of the Prada men's spring-summer 2024 show in Milan

But do you recall Miuccia Prada’s fashion revolution before Raf Simons? When she worked solo and occasionally filled the catwalks – and the closets of fashion connoisseurs – with nods to the 1970s, the New German Cinema movement, and her beloved director Rainer Werner Fassbinder. And what about her frequent, albeit indirect, references to the Fifties?

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Prada fall-winter 2014/15 women's campaign. Photo by Steven Meisel featuring Mica Arganaraz

Surely you can throw back to the autumn-winter 2014/15 runway inspired by the 1972 film ‘The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant,’ but let’s also remember the 1950s sweetness of the spring-summer 2012 collection, which Suzy Mendes aptly described as “Ms. Prada at her ironic best,” creating “clothes roaring with originality and sweet, indeed, to wear.”


Retro-Avantgarde Fifties Fever and Miuccia Prada’s Fashion Revolution

Miuccia Prada’s penchant for 1950s style shines through not just in her collections but also in her personal fashion choices. Renowned for her steadfast loyalty to her tastes, Miuccia Prada’s fashion revolution frequently incorporates references to uniforms, lingerie, and 1950s couture into her work.

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"Her marigold knee-length pleated skirt is a staple style for both Prada the brand and Prada the woman. Under a caramel-hued short-sleeve sweater she’s wearing a tight, crepe-thin white undershirt that peeks out just so at her sleeves and neckline. It’s unexpected. It’s perfect," wrote Senior Editor Keziah Weir, describing Miuccia Prada's style for a September issue of Vanity Fair. Filmmaker Baz Luhrmann captured this image

The 1950s stands as an iconic era in the fashion world, with couturiers like Christian Dior and Cristóbal Balenciaga crafting some of their most memorable looks during this period. Marked by a departure from wartime austerity, the decade epitomised glamour, elegance, and extravagance, well represented by Dior’s revolutionary ‘New Look’ that swept the industry and set the tone for years to come.


Staples of the Fifties-style

In the 1950s, the fashion landscape underwent a profound shift, marked by distinct gender divisions. Women’s fashion leaned towards formality and sophistication, while men’s style embraced a more casual vibe. This transformative period saw the emergence of new couturiers like Hubert de Givenchy and Cristóbal Balenciaga, who reimagined and even challenged the feminine silhouette popularised by Christian Dior

@appletv "This is a story about Christian Dior creating The New Look during WWII. He brought back fantasy and elegance in a difficult time for Paris." Inside The New Look: Part 1 Ben Mendelsohn, Juliette Binoche, Maisie Williams and John Malkovich talk about their roles as icons Christian Dior, Coco Chanel, Catherine Dior, and Lucien Lelong. #TheNewLook ♬ original sound - Apple TV

Initially met with resistance due to its ultra-femininity and luxury, Dior’s revolutionary ‘New Look,’ unveiled in 1947 with his debut collection, gradually gained acceptance during the Fifties, influencing both daytime and evening attire. After years marked by military and civilian uniforms, sartorial restrictions, and shortages, this new opulent silhouette boasted rounded shoulders, a cinched waist, and a voluminous skirt.

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Rebelling against the boxy silhouettes of wartime fashion, Monsieur Dior reconstructed the female figure with his 'New Look,' characterized by a succession of curves

As it evolved, the ‘New Look’ essence endured in separates, evening gowns, and day dresses, as exemplified by Givenchy’s 1953 creation, which showcases how the silhouette was reinterpreted throughout the decade while retaining its signature nipped-in waist and full skirt.

As the decade progressed, garments began to feature a straighter cut. Almost simultaneously, Dior, Balenciaga, and Chanel introduced the straight-cut suit, emphasising women’s natural body shape with the jacket hanging at the widest point of the hips.

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Chanel Haute Couture Spring-Summer 1959

Although women started wearing slacks on certain occasions, the Fifties fashion landscape remained focused on accentuating femininity. This was particularly evident in eveningwear, with the emergence of the cocktail dress to seamlessly transition between day and evening attire. While it was designed to be the length of a day dress, the cocktail dress was adorned with elements typical of eveningwear.

It was paramount for women to maintain an impeccable appearance regardless of the time of day or occasion. This meant spotless makeup, perfect hair, and coordinated accessories. Whether in slacks or a dress, women strived to present a polished image, reflecting a desire for glamour that emerged after the years of deprivation during World War II.

In contrast, as mentioned earlier, men’s fashion transformed to lean towards a more casual aesthetic. Despite the formality imposed by women’s fashion, men’s attire embraced an unprecedented informality. This shift coincided with the rise of youth culture in the 1950s. While men’s fashion had seen only minor changes since the 18th century, the emergence of the Teddy Boys in Great Britain and the iconic looks of Hollywood stars like Marlon Brando and James Dean in the 1950s ushered in a new era of style influenced by working-class aesthetics.


Prada’s Spring-Summer 2012: A Contemporary Twist on Mid-Century Hype

Fast forward to 2011, at Milano Moda Donna, Prada unveiled a spring-summer 2012 collection that paid homage to the 1950s. This show featured chiffon Marilyn-style skirts, pea coats in technical fabrics, comic book prints, stiletto-heeled sandals, and flame-shaped applications. 

Miuccia Prada delved deep into the heart of pin-up and hot rod subcultures for SS12. While the palette showcased Prada’s signature colour blocking, the standout feature of the collection was its prints, featuring cars and shooting flames. 

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Prada spring-summer 2012 campaign, photographed by Steven Meisel

The Spring 2012 accessory line didn’t shy away from the theme either, boasting rocking heels adorned with Cadillac fins and hot rod flames alongside retro bowling-style bags. Completing the retro-inspired look were cat-eye glasses and headscarves, evoking the timeless allure of the era.

In a continuation of this theme, Prada’s Menswear Spring Summer 2012 campaign, shot by the renowned photographer David Sims, echoed the rich tones and saturated shades of 1950s studio portraiture. Featuring actor Michael Pitt, the campaign captured the essence of a golden-age Hollywood icon.


Romance of Old-Fashioned Glamour in Prada’s Fall-Winter 2013/14

In Prada’s fall-winter 2013/14 collection, Miuccia Prada revisited the brand’s roots by showcasing deconstructed 1950s silhouettes, updated with asymmetrical or tilted elements, exemplified by a striking black evening dress. The designer transformed the iconic American housewives of the 1950s into enigmatic heroines, adding a twist to the classic hourglass silhouette. 

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Top model Guinevere van Seenus appears in the main editorial of Vogue Ukraine’s September 2013 issue, photographed by Cuneyt Akeroglu, wearing a Prada Fall-Winter 2013 look

The standout pieces included gingham dresses in red and white or light blue, cinched at the waist with wide or thin belts in gold or silver while featuring open necklines. The sleeves extended below the elbow, with large furry cuffs, and the hems were asymmetrical, revealing the calves. The collection blurred the boundaries between daywear and eveningwear by incorporating embroidered and sparkling panels into hourglass dresses in various colours.

Beyond collections with overt references, Miuccia Prada’s fashion revolution consistently plays with 1950s silhouettes. She often paid homage to the slim-waisted full skirts, typically cinched with a belt, and regularly paired them with understated yet luxurious sweaters. This combination has become a signature Prada look, inspiring fashion aficionados who resonate with the brand’s aesthetic for their most sophisticated outfits. Despite the cyclical nature of fashion and the continual resurgence of trends, Prada excels in revitalising elements of retro fashion and seamlessly adapting them to contemporary styles.



Yesika Brouwer
Fashion Business Master’s alumna, Milan