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1950s Haute Couture

When we think of 1950s haute couture, we think elegance, style and femininity. We also think of tailored suits, flowing gowns and sassy cocktail dresses. The 50’s saw an eclectic parade of fashion from the early part of the decade when haute couture still existed to some extent in its intended form, i.e. clothing designed with a particular client in mind, and progressing through to the end of the decade where ready-to-wear fashions began to take over the industry.

Christian Dior came into the 1950s riding the wave of his popular creation, the New Look, which featured a full skirt, full top emphasizing the bosom, and a very tiny waist. Dior’s love of the female form was evident in his designs. His dresses would feature a full collared top with 3/4 length cuffed sleeves that would become very slender at the waist, and then explode into a full skirt that fell to the middle of the calf.

Toward the mid-1950s Coco Chanel introduced the Chanel suit featuring a collarless jacket paired with a straight skirt that fell just below the knees. Chanel used features such as contrasting trim around the collar, hems and pockets of her suits as well as a single button-front closure. Paired with pearls and gloves, this was a classic look that caught on quickly. Chanel was one of the first designers to offer her designs ready-to-wear, meaning that they were no longer one-of-a-kind creations.

Herbert Givenchy is another designer worth noting in the 1950s for his haute couture. He is probably most recognized for his designs being worn and modelled by Audrey Hepburn. Givenchy’s designs were also very flattering to the female form, with strapless or sleeveless bodices, cinched waists and slim skirts. However, one of his most famous creations, the sack dress, was completely opposite from the form-fitting creations of the day. The sack dress had no waist and hung loosely from the shoulders down.

Toward the end of the 1950s, hemlines began to get shorter and synthetic fabrics began to make their way into fashion. The elegance of haute couture, however, never waned.