February 12, 2019

70 years ago today, Christian Dior unveiled what was called "The New Look."

Wikipedia:
[T]he new collection went down in fashion history as the "New Look" after the editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar Carmel Snow exclaimed, "It's such a new look!... It’s quite a revolution, dear Christian!"... The silhouette was characterised by a small, nipped-in waist and a full skirt falling below mid-calf length, which emphasised the bust and hips... The collection overall showcased more stereotypically feminine designs in contrast to the popular fashions of wartime...



The New Look was welcomed in western Europe as a refreshing antidote to the austerity of wartime and de-feminizing uniforms....

Not everyone was pleased with the New Look, however. Some considered the amount of material to be wasteful, especially after years of cloth rationing. Feminists in particular were outraged, feeling that these corseted designs were restrictive and regressive, and that they took away a woman's independence.

Fellow designer Coco Chanel remarked, "Only a man who never was intimate with a woman could design something that uncomfortable."
It's just by chance that Coco Chanel came up a second time in my blogging this morning. The first appearance is here, as I discuss Trump's remarks about how phony he'd look with a dog. There was an old Chanel quote that sprang to mind. This Chanel quote exemplifies the homophobia that used to be aimed at fashion designers. So often, when I was growing up in the 1960s, I heard the older generation opine that the reason this or that new fashion looked horrible was because fashion designers, being gay, hated women.

The Chanel quote isn't so much about hate as ignorance, as if having sex with a woman — presumably a naked woman — would educate a man about what she'd find comfortable as she does the things she does with clothes on. Or maybe not. I can see how to get Chanel off the hook. Maybe she meant that a man who spends time living with a flesh-and-blood woman would think about her various real-life activities, and a man who dealt only with fashion models has a more static or theatrical vision.

54 comments:

mccullough said...

Chanel was calling Dior a homosexual in what she thought was a diplomatic way.

rhhardin said...

Wm. Empson:

A good case of this kind, I think, would be given by the Victorian matron saying "You can't take Amelia for long walks, Mr. Jones; she's delicate." The word has two senses (to be sure, the N.E.D. gives a dozen, of which onluy five are obsolete, but there are two groups of senses which make the contrast here) and I suppose the lady to assert a connection between them. "Refined girls are sickly" is the assertion, and this gnomic way of putting it is a way of implying "as you ought to know." I choose this case partly to point out that a stock equation may be quite temporary; this combination of meaning in the word seems to be a Victorian one only. You might think the expectation that young ladies will be unfit to walk was enough to produce it, and that the expectation merely followed from tight-lacing; but the eighteenth-century ladies also had waists, and would agree that long walks were rather vulgar, and yet this use of the word would be "out of period" if you were writing a pastiche..."

Wm. Empson _The Structure of Complex Words_ "Statements in Words" p.44

J. Farmer said...

My mother is a huge Coco Chanel devotee, has a large photo of her in her closet, and is fond of quoting her, "Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman." She still bashes Karl Lagerfeld to this day.

C Hayes said...

Whew, Coco. That is a sick burn!
And probably correct.

tim in vermont said...

Coco made a gaffe, she told the truth.

tim in vermont said...

The French don’t have time for this nonsense.

Fernandistein said...

Small, nipped-in waist and a full skirt falling below mid-calf length advertised reproductive capability by exaggerating female secondary sexual characteristics.

Laslo Spatula said...

Lucky for Dior he decided against the nipple clamps before Coco saw it.

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

"Maybe she meant that a man who spends time living with a real woman would think about her various real-life activities, ..."

That is called a 'house dress'.

An apron can be added.

I am Laslo.

PM said...

Mighty bitchy; mighty funny.

Fernandistein said...

Feminists in particular were outraged.

Do funny clothes garner the most unique outrage?

Chuck said...

It all looks like one of the remarkably historic episodes of "I Love Lucy," where Lucy/Ricky/Ethel/Fred went to Paris, and Lucy was desperate for a couture dress, and as a joke Ricky hires a pal to sell them something that was more or less burlap bags and lampshades. Lucy and Ethel wear them out, thinking that they will be fashionable, but of course everyone laughs at them. They fight, make up, and then at the end of the show as they are leaving Paris, they see two models walking on the street wearing burlap sacks and lampshades. (The joke had created the next fashion.)

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0609256/

rhhardin said...

It's not homophobia to make jokes about gays. Typical occupations would be a natural.

"You have to be so careful with plaids." Universal gay joke punchline.

EDH said...

You triggered me with your micro-aggression at "Christian".

traditionalguy said...

Vive La Difference. So what if the gay men dressed women better than the Sears Roebuck Catalogue did after WWII. That's the reason we should have appreciated the gay men instead of arresting them.

Dave Begley said...

"An apron can be added."

An Althouse Apron featuring various rats; in color or black and white. Get yours now!

Ken B said...

No. She meant “fag man bad.”

Phidippus said...

"I heard the older generation opine that the reason this or that new fashion looked horrible was because fashion designers, being gay, hated women."

Well, by and large, they are, and they do. We're supposed to pretend we don't know this?

Ambrose said...

"Feminists in particular were outraged,'

Now there is an evergreen quote.

Sebastian said...

"This Chanel quote exemplifies the homophobia that used to be aimed at fashion designers."

What's phobic about it?

Just as, we've been told, not all criticism of Israel is anti-semitic, not all quips about gays are homophobic.

Eleanor said...

My favorite designers for women's clothing, both historical and contemporary, have always been women. There aren't many straight men in the business, and I don't know why, but very few gay men design clothes that make women feel comfortable in their clothes. A woman is sexier in clothes that make her feel sexy than in clothes a man, especially a gay man, thinks are sexy. Chanel, Schiaparelli, Von Furstenberg, Quant and a host of other women designed clothes women wanted to wear. They loved being women, and their designs showed that. On the other hand, the designers who dress Michelle Obama must hate her

Ralph L said...

More recently, the uglier trope was that gay designers want to dress models that were built like 12 y.o. boys. And they were built like 12 y.o. boys.

Who invented the hoop skirt? That was more about status than looks, like fair skin and bound feet.

Mac McConnell said...

Ralph Lauren isn't gay. He dresses women in a very American way. Feminine take offs of men's clothing for casual wear and elegant dresses. Our first lady is often seen wearing it.

Leslie Graves said...

I love the New Look. It reminds me of a documentary I watched last night on Netflix: All The Queen's Horses.

It's about the city treasurer of Dixon, Illinois. She embezzled $53 million from the city over a twelve-year period and used the money to buy quarterhorses for show. When the fraud was discovered, she had over 300 horses scattered on twelve different farms.

She showed the horses herself and as a vignette in the documentary covers, always while wearing gorgeous jackets that look a lot like the suit jacket of the New Look.

Darrell said...

Nipples, no clamps

Angle-Dyne, Samurai Buzzard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Angle-Dyne, Samurai Buzzard said...

mccullough: Chanel was calling Dior a homosexual in what she thought was a diplomatic way.

Iirc, she wasn't particularly diplomatic about it. She described the New Look as something that (I paraphrase from memory) "an old queen who wanted to be a woman" would come up with.

AA: I can see how to get Chanel off the hook. Maybe she meant that a man who spends time living with a real woman would think about her various real-life activities, and a man who dealt only with fashion models had a more static or theatrical vision.

So more serious (current) crimespeak than you're giving her credit for.

Big Mike said...

Some considered the amount of material to be wasteful, especially after years of cloth rationing.

By this time seventy years ago the war in Europe had been over for almost four years. How long after the war was wartime rationing supposed to continue?

Ralph L said...

Dixon was the hometown of Ronald Reagan, though he was born in Tampico.

Looks like someone would have noticed her luxury lifestyle.

reader said...

I like Christian Dior much more than Chanel because it all comes down to shape. Small waist, no hips, and saddle bags are going to look better with an a-line cut or a peplum. Pulling up images of the two that I would look and feel better in Dior. So which is designing to make an average woman look better?

It doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things because I wouldn't be buying either one.

Darrell said...

That photo at 11:39 AM is from Amazon's The Collection--a TV show a couple of years ago. In that show, French women in the market attacked the model when she was being photographed because they said it was a decadent use of fabric. The show was set immediately after WWII and threy made a point to say that all the returning French designers were featuring the figure 8--as they called it. Dior just held the first show. By mere hours.

Angle-Dyne, Samurai Buzzard said...

Burns on old queens aside, the basic silhouette of the New Look is nice, and very flattering to some of us. Doesn't require any uncomfortable padding and corseting if the design suits one's figure.

Never having owned a real Chanel suit, I don't know if a New Look design could ever have the perfect Chanel fit and comfort that her fans raved about, but there's nothing intrinsically uncomfortable or inconvenient about its basic design. And the silhouette of a Chanel suit is far from universally flattering (wouldn't work for me no matter how well-made).

DavidD said...

“This Chanel quote exemplifies the homophobia that used to be aimed at fashion designers. ... The Chanel quote isn't so much about hate as ignorance....”

When did “phobia” come to mean “hate”, anyway?

Tags: Phobia, the word.

Angle-Dyne, Samurai Buzzard said...

Big Mike: By this time seventy years ago the war in Europe had been over for almost four years. How long after the war was wartime rationing supposed to continue?

Don't know how long official rationing continued, but I was under the impression that dreary scarcity continued for quite a long time after the war in both Europe and Britain.

Ralph L said...

Some things were rationed in Britain until the middle 50's.

Darrell said...

Some things were rationed in Britain until the middle 50's.

Labour--always looking out for the peoples. They passed legislation that prevented farms and small businesses from getting back to their pre-war practices. Paying back the US was down on the list.

Hagar said...

My big sister made herself a ballroom dress according to the New Look, and she was gorgeous in it.

Ralph L said...

Churchill was PM '51-55. I believe he lifted some but not all rationing immediately. Rationing was likely a factor in the election.
Grace Kelly in Rear Window wore New Look on estrogen steroids. You wonder how they peed.

Darrell said...

Churchill was NOT PM from 1945-1951.

That's the important part. Labour won in 1945.
People are asses.

Angle-Dyne, Samurai Buzzard said...

DavidD: When did “phobia” come to mean “hate”, anyway?

You'd think that people who pride themselves on careful use of language would abjure that sort of nonsense, but here we are.

(What it's applied to has no more to do with "hate" than it has to do with "irrational fear", but indulgence in sloppy language is a slippery slope...)

Hagar said...

England was as bad off as Germany after the war, plus the misfortune of being in the grip of a strongly socialist government.

But the women could deal with that; what they lacked and wanted was nylon stockings and lipstick like their American sisters in the movies and magazines.

Darrell said...

what they lacked and wanted was nylon stockings and lipstick

Not when American men were around. What do you think was in the extra footlocker?

tcrosse said...

Princess Margaret went to Paris in 1947, where she and Dior hit it off big time. She had a particularly tiny waist and lots of money, so the New Look suited her just fine.

tim in vermont said...

Blogger EDH said...
You triggered me with your micro-aggression at "Christian"


I always think of "Christian Door” when I hear that name.

https://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Christian+door

tim in vermont said...

Not when American men were around. What do you think was in the extra footlocker

That’s how socialism works. If you go to Cuba, you can find prostitutes working the beach for tourists who have day jobs as doctors.

Hagar said...

Umm. It was not that the European girls were so "easy" as that they had never been exposed to anything like the American high school dating scene.

For the slightly older generation, in Britain and on the continent, a large part of another generation of eligible men was missing.

mockturtle said...

My mother is a huge Coco Chanel devotee, has a large photo of her in her closet, and is fond of quoting her, "Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman." She still bashes Karl Lagerfeld to this day.

Chanel was practical as well as elegant. Dior's gowns were elegant and, face it. A gown doesn't have to be practical. Most of today's designers seem to go out of their way to make women look ridiculous. And maybe that's the point.

mockturtle said...

The Brits, of course, had this objection to American GIs:
They are overpaid
They are oversexed
They are over here

PM said...

"Most of today's designers seem to go out of their way to make women look ridiculous"

Arguable, unless you saw the NYT photos of the Grammy dresses.

Nichevo said...

.

But the women could deal with that; what they lacked and wanted was nylon stockings and lipstick like their American sisters in the movies and magazines.



What they lacked was food food. Read Casino Royale, written in 1954. Read Fleming's description of the dinner James Bond order. An avocado pear. When was the last time anybody in England had seen an avocado? Or an alligator pear, as they were called.

Nichevo said...

That was, F-O-O-D food.

Crazy Jane said...

Why no discussion of the contemporaneous trend of fabric-wasting zoot suits for men and the greater controversy that ensued?

Craig Howard said...

Most of today's designers seem to go out of their way to make women look ridiculous. And maybe that's the point.

In all fairness, they make the men look ridiculous, too.

So, you're probably right. That is the point.

Unknown said...

The New Look in action:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ER17aQTklPE