2012 08 Real Weddings Carli Kyles Modern

During the previous decade, American fashion designers had begun to develop a distinctive style, focusing on easy-to-wear, modern clothing as opposed to the elaborate and elite confections of Paris. Practicality was one prominent characteristic, and resulted in the use of easy-care fabrics, adaptable styles, and capsule wardrobes with elements that could be interchanged. The need for simplicity required by mass production was not seen as a hindrance but was used to advantage. The work of New York-based, ready-to-wear designers was promoted as symbolic of American values such as democracy, pioneer spirit, and a pragmatic approach to life. The creations of made-tomeasure designers such as Valentina and Adrian, who continued in the couture tradition, were less aligned with national identity.


Commenting on the Paris Spring Collections of 1945, American Vogue noted “a very slight tendency toward the longer skirts, Balenciaga, Lelong, and Rochas showing them a bit more below the knee.” The supremacy of French couture had been challenged during World War II, with Norman Hartnell claiming that London fashion designers had given “the home product a stability and elegance which hitherto was possessed by Paris alone.” After the Liberation of Paris in August 1944, the fight for the place at the top of the fashion tree and the search for a new silhouette began.


French designers did not waste time and soon dispatched their latest outfits to cities in Europe and the US. In London, the 1946 Britain Can Make It exhibition showcased 5,000 goods destined for export, including ready-to-wear and couture clothing, which were seen by almost 1.5 million visitors. In October 1945, Life magazine declared that “New York custom dresses are high fashion.” But could the US and Britain resist the lure of Paris chic?