Dior, “New Look” and how fashion changed in an instance

Everybody loves a little bit of history. Well, if you live in the past like me, then you would love history anyway. So that I was able to dress more vintage on a daily basis, I found it really helpful to learn about the fashion and reasons behind it for the time. I decided to share this with you. We are starting with Dior and the “New Look”

A little history…

Back in 1946, with the devastation of the war, the economy of many of the European countries was exhausted, almost to the point of bankruptcy. In the UK, the immediate post-war period was named “The Age of Austerity” – money was in short supply and rationing continued to hinder the development of the fashion industry.

The pace of the fashion industry and it’s revival varied from country to country and in the US ready-to-wear went from strength to strength. Immediately after the war, the slimmer silhouette and shape of the garments shows the effect that rationing had on day-to-day life and style. Rationing would continue, in one way or another until 1958.

Dior and his “New Look”

Dior, in 1947, just two years after the war ended; released his Corolle collection, but it was immediately dubbed the “New Look” and was an instant hit among the fashion world. The designs were more voluptuous than the boxy, and fabric-conserving shapes of the recent war-time styles. He even quotes “I have created flower women.” Use of fabrics lined with percale, boned bustier bodices, hip padding, wasp waist corsets and layer upon layer of petticoats enables his dresses to flare out from the waist providing a curvaceous form.

With its gentle sloping, narrow shoulders, nipped in waist and full voluminous skirts reaching to the calves, there is a wonderful, and romantic feel to this collection. It brought Dior into the forefront and a leader in the field. Immediately, those in high-fashion acquired this style of garment, despite continued rationing on fabric and materials. It would take almost a year for it to reach the mass markets for everyday folks to wear. In 1947, Dior was awarded the Neiman Marcus Fashion Award in Dallas for in recognition of his achievement.

Late 1940’s silhouette,

Although after Dior unleashed the “New Look” into the world, there was a flurry of creativity and ideas, there were two main silhouettes.  The first (left) was a fitted bodice which accentuated the breasts, a natural shoulderline, a tight (often belted waist) and full calf or ankle length skirt held with multi-layered petticoats. The second (right) differed only with the skirt. It was tight and form-fitting, often with a back vent to allow movement.

For ten years Dior remained the forefront of style and taste, releasing iconic shapes such as the Zig-Zag. Vertical, Tulip and the famous H- A and Y-lines.

From 1954 onwards, Dior’s passion and skill enabled many women to have the freedom of movement whilst still looking stylish and sophisticated. His “lunch” and “dinner” outfits were particularly popular. The woman’s silhouette was a slender, form-fitting one.

Initially, women did protest as the designs covered their legs, which was unused to in recent years due to the shortage and rationing of fabric. There was also a massive backlash from the public due to the amount of fabric used in a single dress or suit. During a shoot at a Paris market, some models were attacked by female vendors but opposition stopped as rationing began to end. Dior and his “New Look” revolutionized women’s dress and style. Paris was reestablished as the centre of the fashion world.

I hope this gave some insight into one of the forerunners for 1940’s and 1950’s style. Dior truly changed everything, and without him and his creativity, the iconic style of my favourite period of fashion probably would not have happened. I hope you come and join me again for the next instalment.

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