In 1947, out of the post war gloom, came the New Look from Paris. British women however had to endure several more years of austerity, before finally clothes rationing ended on 15 March 1949. As one new line followed another, the British fashion industry revolutionized itself.
But it was the USA that led the way in ready to wear day and evening wear in the 1950’s. In particular, Hollywood replaced Paris as the go to source for ultra feminine style.
From the high 1950’s fashion of Grace Kelly in Rear Window, to the girl next door styles of Doris Day, women across the globe found a bountiful source of inspiration from the movies and fashion magazines.
The New Look’s full skirted influence brought back femininity to women’s wardrobes. Circle skirts were everywhere, including the Poodle skirt which employed appliqued designs. The colors were pastel, nylon stockings were pale, and the heels were pointed and high.
For women who favored the more gamine silhouette, the figure hugging pencil skirt, now with a lower hem line, was also back in vogue as it had been in the 1930’s.
The American Look dominated, but Britain, from 1952 onward began to catch up and girls were wearing beautiful cotton summer dresses with full skirts and matching Bolero for effect.
At the beach, the play-suit consisted of matching shorts, wrap over skirt and vests.
Coco Chanel, whose star and reputation had faded during the 1940’s, against the odds, brought the woman’s suit back in to vogue in 1954. The Chanel suit was ambitious and bold and provided older women with a new source for wardrobe ideas.
Hollywood in the meantime, found one style icon after another, from Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren to Brigitte Bardot. Marilyn Monroe however was the queen, when it came to glamour.
The other favorite American look was the rockabilly style. Favored by younger women, this consisted of cropped jeans, blouses and cardigans, with sleeves rolled up ! The sweater, thanks to Lana Turner, was another vital component in a young woman’s wardrobe.
Meanwhile in Paris, Christian Dior, who had kick started the post war fashion revolution, was knocked off his perch in 1957 by the sack dress. Styled by Cristobel Balenciaga, it’s undefined waist echoed the simpler shift dresses of the 1920’s.
But no one in the fashion world could have predicted the British invasion that was to finally take the world by storm in the 1960’s. The final sequence of shots are from 1960. Mini skirt and go go boots anyone?
Created in 1960 by the Central Office of Information, sponsored by The Board of Trade.
Directed by Simon Napier Bell and photographed by Larry Pizer.
Costumes by The Victoria Albert Museum. V&A
Corsets by R&W.H. Symington
Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0