The New Look (1947)

Christian Dior (F/W 1954)

 On February 12, 1947, Dior launched his first fashion collection for Spring/Summer 1947 and put an end to the wartime styles that had dominated fashion ever since 1939. The new collection went down in fashion history as the "New Look" after Harpar’s Bazaar editor-in-chief Carmel exclamation, "It's such a New Look!"

During World War II, designers and clothes makers had been forced to adjust their styles to wartime cloth restrictions and rationing due to lack of materials; women's clothes were close fitting, with square shoulders and shorter skirts. Though clothing restrictions were still in effect in France, UK and the US in 1947, Dior's New Look collection violated all the rules of wartime fashion: his outfits had rounded shoulders, full skirts and a narrow waist. The dresses were lined with expensive and luxurious fabrics such as cambric or taffeta and were beautifully detailed. Outfits were accessorized with a hat, often worn to one side, long gloves and simple jewelry. As Dior described it when the clothing line was introduced, the New Look was "symbolic of youth and the future."
Jean Dessès (1951)                                                        Victor Stiebel (1950)

Balenciaga (1955)

Dior's New Look clothes created an international sensation. Critics scolded the designer for ignoring the continued rationing and the economic distress of the war years. They complained that manufacturers didn't have enough cloth to make Dior's full skirts and that women didn't have enough money to buy them. One British politician claimed that the longer skirt was the "ridiculous whim of idle people," while protestors in Paris called out, "40,000 francs for a dress and our children have no milk," according to Nigel Cawthorne, author of The New Look: The Dior Revolution. But women and other designers disagreed. The first women to see the designs at Paris fashion shows raved that femininity had returned to women's clothes. Designers imitated Dior's look for their collections and quickly produced ready-to-wear New Look-inspired clothing lines. (Ready-to-wear refers to clothes that can be bought "off the rack" as opposed to custom designed, tailored clothing.)

       Jean Dessès (1953)                                                       Pierre Balmain (1950)

The New Look killed off the utility clothing of the war years and ushered in a new era in fashion. By 1948 the New Look was the dominant fashion in Paris, London and New York. It continued to be popular for several years.

Photos from the Albert and Victoria Museum, London
Article sources  from the Fashion Encyclopedia and Wikipedia