Once you reach the mid-20th century, popular fashions begin to move fast enough that most viewers will know the time period without much need for scene-setting, whereas it would take a historian to tell the difference between, say, 1830 and 1850 based on visuals alone. The problem is that it’s easy to get carried away with year-by-year trend accuracy, and forget that not everyone could or even want to be up-to-date with the very latest styles… .
The popular image of 1950s fashion stems from Dior’s New Look, a “return to femininity” after the supposed horror of having to wear trousers, uniforms and sensible shoes during wartime. (Unsurprisingly, the New Look was not immediately met with widespread jubilation — I imagine that a couple of our Bletchley girls would have been less than enthused about the return of the corset girdle.) Full-skirted New Look outfits have never really gone out of style for things like prom dresses and semi-formalwear because they still represent a certain kind of 1950s ultra-femininity. But while The Bletchley Circle is set in 1952, it’s very aware of the social background of its main characters, none of whom are exactly fashion plates. In some ways it reminded me of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a movie whose story relied upon a particular historical setting but whose visuals were often strangely nebulous when it came to time-specific details. A couple of the younger characters in Tinker, Tailor were very obviously living in the 1970s, but many of the older men were either stuck in the past, or were just wearing the same suits they’d been wearing for the past twenty years. Which is, I think, satisfyingly realistic.
hellotailor, “The Bletchley Circle, Part 2: Costume Design.”