The New Look by Dior
Explain how Dior’s New Look embraced the ideas of nostalgia, tradition and modernism. Your essay must include specific reference to at least two Dior collections and key cultural contexts.
The late 1940s witnessed a continuation of the post war austerity. Christian Dior’s 1947 collection broke away from this unadorned fashion mantra by going back to the design that flattered the female body. This nostalgia for traditional femininity inspired Dior to create a female centered art. At the same time, the design’s extravagance represented a new modern outlook for the future. The war sartorial restrictions were over and his pieces represented a new prosperous society (Dior 2007). These refreshing designs were termed “The New Look” by American journalists who recognized the revolution that Dior had pioneered.
Paris’ reputation as a center of fashion had suffered significantly from the wars. Dior’s collection restored Paris role as a fashion center. Within years of the first New York collection, women within Europe and across the Atlantic were using his deign mantra for practically every garment (Design Museum, 2009). The war’s gloom was now replaced by a joyous celebration of fashion. With demand for his designs exceeding supply, Dior pioneered license agreements. These arrangements enabled designers across Europe and America to adopt The New Look for their own products. Thus, the designs became standard fashion for women in the 1950s.
Figure 1: Flamboyance in The New Look
Dior’s pieces typically featured rounded shoulders, full busts and extravagant skirts. The ultra-feminine look celebrated tradition without compromising modernism. Nevertheless, its opulence was a source of discomfort for some who regarded it as impractical. In Russia, the design was cited as an example of the deterioration of western capitalism. Moreover, post-war restrictions still limited the flow of required materials between countries. Thus, The New Look’s initial years exhibited mixed successes. Nevertheless, these sentiments gave way to a new optimism in fashion.
The bar suit, shown below was an icon of The New Look
Figure 2: The Bar suit
The new look continues to inspire fashion today. Dior brought out the art in fashion by putting the female form at the focus of deign. His success is attributable to nostalgic longing for artful forms. This appreciation for nature-inspired art has been a major influence for contemporary fashion.
Figure 3: The New Look Today
Dior, C. (2007). The Little Dictionary of Fashion: A Guide to Dress Sense for Every Woman. New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams.
Design Museum. (2009). Fifty Dresses That Changed the World. New York, NY: Conran.
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