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What Is Rockabilly Clothing?

By Britt Archer
Updated May 21, 2024
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"Rockabilly" is a term used to define a genre of music that combines rock and roll and country music, which originated in the early 1950s. Rockabilly clothing evokes a time when clothing was modest and playful. Vintage clothing and retro-inspired pieces that contribute to the rockabilly look add distinct wardrobe flair. Rockabilly relies heavily on 1950s clothing shapes and styles, usually with updated prints and fabrics.

Women's rockabilly clothing items run the gamut from pristine and prim to wild and daring. Some women pursuing a rockabilly image choose to dress in pin-up girl style as an homage to models of the era, such as Bettie Page. Leopard print, playful sailor costumes, bold stripes, capri pants and pencil skirts all fit into the rockabilly style. While clothing may be form-fitting, it usually doesn't involve extra-low necklines or extra-high hemlines, making it a fairly modest choice when compared to other fashion styles.

As is the case with the fashion world over all, less variety exists among men's rockabilly clothing. Men's styles commonly resemble greaser clothing, specifically fashions featured on the male lead character Danny Zuko in the movie Grease. Leather jackets, T-shirts and jeans are all standard wardrobe pieces. Regardless of the clothing choice, items should be clean and tailored.

Others in the rockabilly subculture prefer a more innocent approach to their clothing with poodle skirts, polka dots and cashmere cardigans in light colors and feminine fabrics. As with women's clothing items, some men's items are more tailored, such as button-down short-sleeved shirts, bowling shirts with plaid or ticking and pressed slacks with loafers. Accessories such as pearls, gloves and hats are welcome additions to rockabilly outfits.

Rockabilly clothing can be mixed and matched with other clothing styles to suit personal tastes. Psychobilly is both a music genre and fashion style that mixes rockabilly aesthetics with punk overtones, and gothabilly is a fusion of goth and rockabilly. Both of these fashion subgenres embrace the basic shapes and styles prominent in rockabilly clothing but with a darker, edgier feeling imparted through fabric choices, such as velvet or lace, and prints that may include skulls, flames or Sailor Jerry style tattoo art.

One doesn't need to listen to rockabilly music or embrace a rockabilly lifestyle in order to dress in rockabilly clothing. Some individuals prefer to wear the clothing simply because they like the look of it. Others delight in incorporating rockabilly accessories or individual clothing pieces into their everyday wardrobe for an offbeat, eclectic look.

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Discussion Comments
By Sara007 — On Jul 19, 2011

There are a lot of starlets that have adopted the rockabilly-clothing look as their own and have really pushed the pin up look of the '50s on young audiences.

Do you think that the rockabilly look can be too sexy for a teenager to wear, or is it OK if they want to make a splash in cherry print and high heels?

For myself I am a little wary about letting my teen girls dress up in the rockabilly look, as it seems a bit too sexy. But I guess when you consider skinny jeans and what some stars wear it is somewhat of a blessing in disguise that they want to dress in something that actually covers them.

By animegal — On Jul 19, 2011

@blackDagger - There are definitely people who go out in rockabilly clothing everyday, and it doesn't really have to be an extreme look in order to follow the look of the era they love. My best friend loves rockabilly clothing and has created an entire functional wardrobe that really reflects the era.

For my friend she loves to utilize pencil skirts, sexy capri pants and various blouses to get the look she loves. She has a few dresses too that she throws on when she wants to dress up.

For those who are interested in the rockabilly look, start small with a few pieces and see how you feel. The rockabilly look can really work anytime or anyplace when done right.

By bluespirit — On Jul 19, 2011

Another fun thing I have found with rockabilly styles - rockabilly baby clothes!

Just imagine a baby Danny Zuko! In fact they can really rock this style out at a young age - I just saw a commercial for diapers that look like jeans, can you believe it!

There are even websites dedicated to 'cool' clothes for those babies and toddlers who are crying to get out of their cutesie onesies. These sites sometimes describe the clothes as 'alternative' or 'punk rock' clothes!

As an added bonus these sites sometimes have matching maternity clothes as well, so the soon-to-be mom has more options for other types of maternity wear.

My friend who is pregnant tells me she has to order her maternity clothes online, because the small town she lives in has such few options! I will have to tell her about these sites.

By geekish — On Jul 18, 2011

I love this idea for a fashion trend you could always keep in style by adding current trends to the overall idea of the rockabilly look.

I would start with modern a modern jeans piece, right now that could be skinny jeans or jean jacket and then I would go to a consignment store for rockabilly vintage clothing to complete the look! It would be a great way to purchase cheap rockabilly clothing.

We have great consignment stores now. They go beyond clothing stores such as Goodwill in that you can receive store credit or receive cash when you bring the consignment store clothes. Goodwill is, of course, a great choice as well because they are a great community resource.

I wonder if these consignment stores that are popping up are a new trend! I hope so. I feel consignment stores are a great way to buy unique clothes.

By sunnySkys — On Jul 18, 2011

@JessicaLynn - Your friend must have fun dressing up in her rockabilly clothing! I went as a rockabilly for Halloween a few years ago and I had a blast! It's not really my style for every day wear, but it was fun for the night.

On thing I've noticed that isn't mentioned in the article is that a lot of women's rockabilly clothing is made with cherry print fabric. I think cherry print is adorable and I would love to have a bathing suit made from this print!

By JessicaLynn — On Jul 17, 2011

A good friend of mine is really into the whole Rockabilly thing. She and her boyfriend look like quite the pair when they go out together! They pretty much always dress this way, it is their style after all.

My friend usually gets a ton of compliments at her job as well. Obviously she doesn't wear anything like a sailor outfit at work but a lot of the other Rockabilly clothing for women is perfectly appropriate for the workplace.

By elizabeth23 — On Jul 17, 2011

@blackDagger- I guess people wear things like this to concerts or parties. I think some of the more tailored outfits could fit regular wear, but most of this sounds just a little too complicated for everyday wear, and a little too high maintenance to get cleaned often.

By blackDagger — On Jul 17, 2011

These clothes sound like so much fun! I think that I would absolutely love to explore this kind of fashion trend, although I think I would have to be daring to do so. I would definitely stand out of a crowd!

But since attention has never bothered me in the least, I would imagine that I could handle it! Personally, I think that I would enjoy the sailor outfit or something similar. Sexy and cute would definitely be the way to go.

Where do you wear something like this to, though? I mean, do people wear them exclusively to rockabilly concerts? Sort of like how everyone who goes to a George Straight concert wears a cowboy hat. Or are their people who really go this style every day?

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