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Responsible for dramatically changing the style of the 1950s, Dior created the” new look” which used lots of fabric and exaggerated the hourglass shape of the female figure. The new look was in direct contrast to the frugal and plain styles during the war, but women and the fashion industry embraced the move back to glamour. In 1955 Yves Saint Laurent joins Dior as a design assistant.
In the same year Dior launches cosmetic range. He was a mainstream Haute Couture designer in France.
The H-line of 1954 was a slender tunic suit with a slim skirt that later became more of a dropped waist tubular twenties style dress with a hemline that was creeping upwards. This would become a classic 1950s fashion garment.
-Y line dress A line dress H line dress
Though finding glamour and drama as important as Dior, Balenciaga went in the opposite direction in his silhouettes, making them sleeker and broadening the shoulders and removing emphasis on the waist.
This shape gave way to the sack dresses and tunics that became popular in the next decade.
Balmain’s focused on femininity and elegance, creating the quintessential French style of the 1950s.
James was most well known for his spectacular gowns, which were often copied for prom and evening wear, and featured intricate constructions and unique color combinations.
Fath had a less severe take on the “new look”, with softer hourglass curves and plunging necklines. His designs showed more skin than his contemporaries making him a favorite of the younger and more daring.
Anne Fogarty- Leading designer of petticoats and poodle skirts. She wrote a book for housewives on how to look good while they worked. She designed the bikini in the 60’s.
Chanel re-opened her fashion house in 1954 and began her designs with a boxy suit jacket and skirt’s in nubbly tweed. She used richly textured wool slub fabrics sometimes designed by the textile artist Bernat Klein.The silhouette was straight down and clinched in the waist, before veering out again. The were beautifully lined with silk and other such materials. The were weighted along the facing join and inside join with gilt chains. the style has frequently been revived over the seasons and in particular a collarless style of coat and jacket she popularised, is now called the Chanel line. It was accessorised with delicate piece’s such as string pearls and chain necklaces.
In Britain, Haute Couture models began to be licensed to companies like Wallis and soon provided a useful source of income. Macy’s of New York paid huge sums of money for an individual Toile, a linen or calico copy of the designer model garment. Every piece of information they needed to make the garment as a near copy would be provided. Details of trimmings, buttons, fasteners etc were all part of the price paid. With thousands of copies constructed, Macy’s could afford to sell a dress worth $1000 for $100. If they sold a superior more exact version as a limited copy, they could sell it as a designer original and reap the reward of a higher designer price.
International breakthrough’s of the 50’s
1. Chanel’s introduction of Chemise.
2. The “Beatnik” style of leotards and form-fitting pants topped with oversized shirts rivaled the petticoats and poodle skirts for favourite style of the day.
3. Leather jackets became a favourite of the “cool crowd” after seeing Elvis sport one on television.
4. The strapless dress with the fullest skirts attainable became a favourite for evening wear.
Most materials were for export only in the 50’s due to lack of money post war time.
1951 was the release of materials and patterns classed as luxury items as they were in colours, styles and fabrics mostly never seen before. (The Festival Of Britain Exhibition of 1951 held at the South Bank on the River Thames in London produced over 6000 products many of them clothing, accessories and dress fabrics.)
The government took away access to materials from the british public to rebuild the economy and quietly traded abroad.
Marks and Spencer’s takes off
Classed as best ready to wear chain, and affordable, Marks and Spencer’s quadrupled profits in the 50’s. The Quality became so high they had to limit production as everyone wanted the affordable stylish Paris inspired 1950s glamour.
Late fifties launch (M;S)
In the late fifties a popular style was the knitted sweater dress, with crew, shirt tab front or cowl necks and made from Orlon or Lambswool. As there was no central heating at this point of time, knitted dress’s were worn in winter, and most women wore their girdles and long line bra’s underneath to cover the thigh’s.
Petticoats and Paper Nylon.
Full skirts needed an underneath support to look good and nylon was used extensively to create bouffant net petticoats or paper nylon petticoats. It was to make the sizing and style ‘just right’. The petticoats progressed extensively, changing from a gentle swish to a round bouffant. Each petticoat was parshly stiff, to keep the layer’s up and flamboyant (boning). Then another net petticoat was placed over the stiffened one to make it less rigid.
Dior influence on Quant
Mary Quant was heavily influenced by Dior’s loose fitting and freer style’s of the 50’s
Introduced in 1958, this classic neckline was favoured by teenagers, hence the name baby doll. It was classed as rebellious, the complete opposite of what children’s mothers were wearing at the time.
Introduction of synthetic fabrics.
Garments in the 50’s were revolutionised by new materials. In the 50’s most synthetic fibres were obtained from petrochemicals. They were promoted for their easy care wash and wear qualities, which was of interest since most clothes were dripped dried and hand washed in this time. After being introduced, these materials were soon affordable. America had easier access to man made fabrics than the UK and most synthetic fabrics were received in parcels via american pen pals. Crimplene enabled everyone to wear white and pastel colours because they could be washed easily as polyester does not yellow like white nylon does with age and sunlight. The fabric also tailored well and could be made into button front, double breasted, wide collar dresses and retain a crisp appearance through washing.
Nylon, Polyester and Acrylic were the most popular new materials
The Trapeze dress
The trapeze dress was a swinging dress almost triangular in shape and designed to be worn with low shoes and bouffant hairstyles.
The Sack dress
Hubert Givenchy designed a Paris collection dress in 1957 called the sack and it started the trend for straighter waist less shift dresses. First it developed into the fitted darted sheath dress and later into the loose straight short shift dress. By 1958 the style really began to catch on. Quant modified this in the sixties to her taste.
Alternative slim silhouette
Made from hard wearing materials such as wool and suit materials, the slim line silhouette opposed the full skirts. The new synthetic materials were ideal. often had a large white organdie collar and cuffs with a bias bound edge that could be detached and washed, then sewn back into position. Such cuffs were called French cuffs.
Coat by Jacques Fath
Another influential fashion silhouette of the period was that of the late 1940’s swing coat by Jacques Fath, which was a great shape to cover up full skirts and an ideal silhouette for the post war high pregnancy rate.
This style was also often made as a loose full tent line duster coat, but often without the double breasted feature and buttons shown here.
Seamless stocking were introduced 1952
The Second World War left women craving for glamour, style and swathes of fabric where scraps of material had once existed. Dior’s full skirted and waisted designs fulfilled all the early dreams of the feminine woman in the early 50’s. As a new, more liberated society evolved, women moved toward freer more relaxed clothes and began the move away from the dress rules and associated formality of decades.