2012 08 Real Weddings Heather Matts Beautiful

Most of Europe faced a long period of recovery following World War II, but France’s fashion industry resurfaced quickly, with the Chambre Syndicale ensuring that the Paris couture houses could open and show collections. On a cold February day in 1947 Christian Dior showed his La Corolle collection, sowing the seeds of glamour and creating the basic shape of fashion for the next decade. In Britain clothes rationing lasted until 1950, but Mayfair couturiers such as Hardy Amies produced their version of Dior’s “New Look” for English women eager for new styles in a drab postwar world. Europe and America Buyers from North America traveled to Paris to secure toiles (mock-ups of garments) to reproduce “Paris Fashions” in the major department stores back home. In Hollywood, costume designers including Helen Rose and Edith Head were inspired by the styles coming from Paris, and produced their own versions, including the ice-cool, elegant clothes worn by stars like Grace Kelly in Hitchcock’s Rear Window.


There was a connection between Italian style, traditionally excellent for knitwear and printed silk, and American fashion, perhaps through the GIs stationed in Italy during the war, perhaps through mass emigration to the US. Designers in both countries, such as Tina Leser and Claire McCardell in America and Emilio Pucci in Italy, produced stylishly casual clothes, as opposed to the more formal feel of French and British fashion. This easier approach to dressing struck a chord, particularly with younger women. New consumers against the backdrop of an uncertain world haunted by the Cold War and an insidious nuclear threat, young people developed their own culture.


A new term was coined—“the teenager”—and they wanted clothes just for themselves. There was a new breed too of cultural hero or role model, men like Elvis Presley who wore leather flight jackets and other military surplus, and young men wanted to look like him. Work wear and denim blue jeans also crossed boundaries and became fashion wear for both young men and young women.