On Monday evening, the biggest names in fashion will gather in New York City for the annual Met Gala. With the documentaryThe First Monday in May having recently shed light on the gala’s behind-the-scenes elements, the world is sure to be paying as much attention as ever to the looks that come down the red carpet. And the celebrity invitees are sure to take their own stabs at interpreting this year’s theme “fashion in an age of technology” with futuristic looks.
But, even as designers look to the future, it’s worth remembering that today’s fashions are never truly divorced from those of the past. With that in mind, take a look back at the fashions of the 1950s, as shown on the cover of LIFE Magazine.
Throughout the decade, the magazine traced the evolution of fashion from demure tailored shirts and classic beach looks to casual college trends and elegant evening wear. (And, of course, “canasta pajamas.”) For those whose preferred looks are less sci-fi and more retro, the photographs can be a trove of inspiration.
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.