The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957 at the V&A Museum in London UK

23 09 2007

The V&A Museum in London opened Saturday 22nd September the exhibition ‘The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957

Dior’s collection the  ‘New Look’ this Fall celebrates its 60th anniversary and that is the reason for the exhibition. It is important to note that it wasn’t Christian Dior that gave that name to the collection. The  name he gave the collection was ‘La Corolle’ because he thought that the skirt looked like a corolle the way it fell from the tiny waist. It was fashion journalist Carmel Winter that named the collection the ‘New Look’ simply because it was a new look.

A mistake is also that the number that has come to illustrate the collection is ‘Le Bare’. But it has come to illustrate the ‘New Look

Dior created the collection because he wanted a revival of the crinoline that was in fashion 1855 to 1863 with its peak in 1859. Dior admired C.F.Worth the father of haute couture and the couturier dressing the empresses of France, Austria and Russia. Some people have claimed he invented the crinoline. That is not true. That fashion came into fashion in 1856 (the steel hoops). By that time Worth was just a shop assistant. Enough about Worth.

Dior was lucky to meet cotton magnate Marcel Boussac. He could smell money in Dior’s ultra wide skirts. Dior borrowed 10 million francs from Boussac and promised to make wide skirts in fashion again.

Paris had lost its title as fashion capital of the world to New York. Paris was now very keen to regain the title.

Dior aimed clientele was established and elegant ladies in the world. He was surprised to see that also young women were attracted by his  collection. His own explanation for the success of the collection is that it was speaking about youth and future.

It took some time before London and England embraced the New Look.  The UK experienced a huge shortage of everything after the war. The newly elected Labour government had a lot of problems to face. Garments had to be marked with the ‘Utility mark’ before it reached the market. It meant that the garment had been through a strict price and quality control. Dior’s new skirt didn’t pass that test as it took far too much fabric. Of course women could travel to France and buy if they could afford it.

Another hurdle was that in the start women in the UK didn’t want to take orders from the fashion dictator in Paris. The ladies gave in slowly. First the made their own version of the wide skirt. Women were tired of the masculine style that had dominated their wardrobe since 1939.




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