In February 1947, Christian Dior introduced the first major postwar collection, called the “Corolle Line”, which was later renamed the “New Look” by American journalists in Life Magazine (Fashions of the 1950’s: The “New Look). Dior was over the harsh utility style clothes and their masculine characteristic. With the “New Look”, most recognizable by its curvy shape and line, Dior started the fashion revolution away from the wartime mode (Fashions of the 1950’s: The “New Look). In a single collection he created one of the most distinct looks of the century.
The “New Look” was a womanly hourglass figure, with a tiny waist, full hips, and a plentiful bust. Shoulders went from square to naturally rounded, jackets were pinched in at the waist, and dresses had darts to give the flare and fullness of the skirt (Fashions of the 1950’s: The “New Look). Alternatives on skirt line and length emerged as the decade progressed and included variations of styles. Women were accessorized with hats, gloves, shoes, and purses; all the frills to match.
I wanted my dresses t be constructed, molded upon the curves of the feminine body, whose sweep they would stylize,” Christian Dior proclaimed in his autobiography (Christian Dior / – Design/Designer Information). It was Dior’s belief that women were fed-up with the uniforms and unadorned clothing of WWII. Sloping Shoulders First, the New Look transformed the square shoulders of the war era into more feminine, soft, sloping shoulders, inspired by pre-Civil War fashions. In nearly all Dior designs, this look was achieved by the use of shoulder pads.
Tiny Waists Next, the essential ingredient needed for New Look fashions is a corset. The fashion magazines of the period preferred to call them the more exotic term “guepieres” (Tortora). Dior’s own corset was named “the waspie” (Thomas). This new version of the Victorian corset was five or six inches deep, made of rigid fabric with elastic inserts, and contained boning and back-lacing. Such corsets were worn well cinched at the waist, and were usually worn over a panty- or roll-on girdle (Tortora).
In addition to the use of corsets, Dior frequently lined the waists of his skirts and dresses with feather boning (Thomas). For women who could only afford to buy the mass-produced version of The New Look, Vogue suggested the use of a “waist-liner,” which was a strip of muslin or seam binding with boning sewn into it, which Vogue said gave “a thin strip of indentation about [the] waist, and could be sewn into each…dress…” (1950 | World of Kays). Full Busts The New Look corsets also accentuated the bust somewhat, but most women wearing the New Look also used push-up bras to help fill out their bust line.
Some of these newly invented push-up bras also contained rubber padding (1950 | World of Kays). Women who needed further help were told by fashion magazines to sew a taffeta or acetate ruffle to the bust line of their bra (1950 | World of Kays). Full Hips “Waspies” and other post-war era corsets added some fullness to the hip area, but Dior’s designs required some sort of added fullness to the hip area–either with padding, or modern farthingales and bustles (Thomas). Dior’s suits contained padding at the hips to achieve an ever more exaggerated hour-glass look.
Full Skirts. The number one item Dior used to make his skirts stand full was another characteristic borrowed from the Victorian era, the petticoat (Thomas). Most New Look petticoats were made of nylon, taffeta, or horsehair net (Thomas). Most often they had a fitted hip yolk leading to several smooth layers of netting that ended with a few ruffles (Thomas). In order to avoid snags in nylon stockings, Dior ingeniously softened the bottom ruffles of his petticoats with eyelet (Thomas). The Pencil Skirt If Dior’s skirts and dresses were not full, they were skin tight (Tortora).
New Look jackets, tightly fitted to the figure, were lined with acetate and muslin to help stiffen and support the outer fashion fabric (Thomas). In addition, skirts were frequently made with back walking slits or had pleats or gathers at the back in order to make walking easier (Thomas). Evening Dresses Evening dresses were generally built in the same manner day clothes were; however, the new strapless evening gown required extra support. Many of Dior’s gowns contained built-in feather boning to hold strapless gowns up (Thomas).
If re-created accurately, New Look garments should nearly stand up by themselves; the interlining, linings, interfacings, boning, and stiffening Dior used all but supported his garments on their own (Thomas). The Trickle Down Effect Of course, not every woman was fortunate enough to own and wear true Dior clothing. Mass-produced items, which contained less handiwork and support, were worn by most women of the post-war era because of affordability (Fashions of the 1950’s: The “New Look). Unfortunately, neither original Dior designs nor spin offs are easily found in vintage clothing shops and shows today (Thomas).
Like anyone else’s couture designs, the middle class’ imitated Dior’s New Look designs with creations of their own or department store look-alikes. Below are ads for the designer model compared to a mock production: Wealthy social class women would be the only ones walking around in this vintage original Dior New Look. It is actually the design featured in his most recognizable photo of the New Look collection, The Bar. This Design is the definition of Dior’s New Look with the sloping shoulders, tiny synched waist, and flaring skirt to give a full hipped, hour-glass figure.
Of course the accessories bring the outfit together. This is a collection of catalogue ads for the 1950s imitations of Dior’s New Look silhouettes. These would be examples of the mass produced clothing that the Middle and Lower class would be able to afford and still be in trend with the New Look craze. The prices would be significantly lower than the Dior original above.
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Cite this Fashion History: the New Look (1950s)
Fashion History: the New Look (1950s). (2017, Jan 30). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/fashion-history-the-new-look-1950s/