Dressing Up, Dressing Down

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Dress (1957.484)
1957.483 full
Dress Photograph (1957.484)
(1956.16)
(1956.14)
(1959.104/3)
(1956.22)
(1957.487)
(1959.101)

In fashion terms, it is intriguing to look back upon the 1950s as the heyday for the mature style, emanating a mixture of glamour, prosperity and confidence, and shortly to give way permanently to the attractions of youth. Having endured the stringencies of the Second World War with shortages and rationing (which continued on some commodities to the early 1950s), consumers were desperate to buy fashionable and extravagant clothing and exotic fabrics. In womenswear, Christian Dior caught the spirit of the new age when he launched his spectacularly successful "New Look" in 1947, sweeping away shoulder pads, boxy shaping and skimpy skirts, and featuring instead full or pencil skirts, nipped in waists and sloping shoulders. This yellow cotton suit by Michael Donnellan for Lachasse exemplifies the "New Look", as do many of the other outfits photographed below in black and white publicity shots, showing some of the most celebrated models of the age.

The 1950s also saw social change, leading to major innovations in fashion, such as the new importance of teenage styling, recognizing the "teen-pound" and youngsters' increasing access to cash for clothing. Similarly, American influence showed itself in the widespread popularity of vibrantly printed summer frocks or Hawiian type shirts for men, made popular in Hollywood movies, and contrasting strongly with plain and rather dull English urban business-wear.

Full item descriptions:

"suit" [1957.483], Donellan, Michael, Lachasse
"coat dress" [1957.484], Cavanagh, John, Fothergill & Harvey Ltd.
"evening dress" [1956.16], Sherard, Michael, Simpson & Godlee Ltd
"suit" [1956.14], Lachasse, Crowther Textiles Ltd
"cocktail dress & stole" [1959.104/3], Pierre Balmain, Paris, Ascher, Zita
"evening dress" [1956.22], Sherard, Michael, Tootals Ltd
"dress" [1957.487], Morton, Digby, Ashton Bros
"evening dress" [1959.101], Cavanagh, John, Stewart Thomson and Co Ltd

Related Themes:

1950s Cotton Board Fashion
Victor Stiebel
Christian Dior
Designers