2016 Sunset Report

OLG & DCRT Strategic Plan
2020-21 through 2024-25


Did you know?
Introduction Belle Epoque Jazz Age Hollywood Goes
To War
Modern Century Anything Goes Power And Opulence

Christian Dior's "New Look" of the full skirt and cinched waist, introduced in 1947, dominated the 1950s. The designs reflected women's return to the role of wife and homemaker after having done "men's work" in industries and jobs during the war. According to Dior, he aimed to counteract the wartime style in which "women looked and dressed like Amazons." Instead, he envisioned "flower-like women" in "clothes with rounded shoulders, full feminine busts and willowy waists above enormous spreading skirts." Of course, women who followed this style did not necessarily endorse Dior's definition of femininity. Moreover, while popular culture idealized women's domesticity, rising numbers of women began to work outside the home. Beneath the seemingly tranquil 1950s bubbled a social revolution that erupted in the next decade.

Evening gown
Unknown maker
ca. 1953
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Sketch for Christian Dior evening gown
Spring/Summer 1954
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The New Look

The New Look commonly attributed to Christian Dior was actually generated by a number of designers. The silhouette was curvaceous and reminiscent of Victorian styles with its soft shoulders, fitted bodice, tiny waist and full skirts supported by crinolines. Long, glamorous gowns were topped with sequins, feathers or fur. The shape, though restrictive in comparison to earlier clothing styles of the twentieth century, remained popular for more than a decade.

Sketch for Jean Dessès evening gown
ca. 1954
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In the mid-1950s and the early 1960s an easier, straighter, form - the shift - became popular. Cristóbal Balenciaga, the influential Spanish designer operating out of Paris, departed from the hourglass shape, introducing looser, geometric designs. Hubert de Givenchy popularized the chemise, or sack dress, in 1957. This design later incorporated the innovative lines of Mary Quant and others.

Evening gown
Cristóbal Balenciaga
ca. 1958
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Sketch for Jeanne Lanvin evening gown
Spring 1954
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Mass production methods created a much wider gap between ready-to-wear clothing and couture creations. Distinct innovative design elements were introduced by couturiers each season, making the past year's styles passé. Many of these features were quickly adopted by manufacturers who targeted the general public, but high fashion continued to be accessible only to the very wealthy. Designers began to expand their market and to target a more youthful clientele.

Debutante dress
Dowty, New Orleans

Tailcoat and trousers
Varsity Town, manufacturer
Walsh & Levy, Baton Rouge, retailer
ca. 1946
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Debutante gown (left)
Unknown maker

Debutante gown (right)
Philip Hulitar
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