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By: Emily Bach
During World War II, masculine silhouettes dominated women’s fashion and clothing styles represented the darkness and restrictions resulting from the war. Clothing rations limited the variety of materials available to women, ushering in a very practical and simple fashion style. Women’s fashion began to reflect a military look with its short jackets, narrow skirts, and tailored suits as these required less fabric. Practicality became especially important during this time for women as they found themselves quickly entering the workforce to replace the positions previously held by men before the war. Women required sturdy clothing while working, popularizing clothing styles that resembled uniforms. Utilitarianism quickly replaced the emphasis of curves.
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After the war, society was ready for a change in fashion in order to move away from the restrictions wartime brought. Christian Dior, one of the most iconic fashion designers of the world, especially desired this change. He perceived the popular utilitarian silhouette as a loss of femininity and sought to reintroduce seduction and glamour into women’s wardrobes and lives. On February 12, 1947 Dior showcased his first collection, which quickly became known as the “New Look”. In contrast to the dark colors and simplistic styles popular during the war due to dye and fabric rations, Dior’s collection featured opulent designs and bright colors. His collection accentuated a woman’s curves with cinched waists, emphasized bust lines, and voluminous hips, embodying his goal to fit clothing to the female body's shape. One photograph taken by the famous photographer Willy Maywald depicts Dior’s revolutionary designs. The photo showcases a morning coat that tightly cinches the waist. The model’s tiny waist and flared, pleated skirt emphasizes the curves of her bust and hips, marking the rise of “flower women”, a term coined by Dior to describe the reemergence of delicate women through his clothing.
Recently we rehoused a number of coats, with one in particular that excited us. As we opened this particular coat cover, we pulled out a amazing, beautiful fur coat. As we inspected it further, we noticed “Christian Dior Furs” written on the coat’s tag and stitched into the coat’s inner lining! You can imagine our gasps of excitement after realizing we came across an authentic Christian Dior fur coat! This particular Dior coat, dating back to the 1950's, is a dark brown seal fur coat that closes with three wooden buttons. The coat’s fur is extremely soft and has a reflective surface, which can be seen in the following photograph. It is in excellent condition, with the exception of its collar where the fur has clumped together due to exposure to water. Dior began his fur line in 1949, along with additional fashion branches, such as shoes and perfume. He believed his New Look could not be achieved without the appropriate accessories, which led to the establishment of Dior as a global enterprise.
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Christian Dior passed away in 1957 from a heart attack at the young age of 52. Although he died at an early age, his influence is continues to impact the fashion world today. Dior still showcases Dior’s New Look’s silhouettes and continually pays homage to him, recognizing how he revolutionized women’s fashion.
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