The mid- to late-1940s saw the end of World War II and the beginning of a new world. For the United States, at least, the late 1940s created a boom in prosperity and, in the fashion world, a sigh of relief as it wriggled its way out of wartime austerity measures. Skirts got longer, lines got softer, and Dior used fabric as though it was water. As part of the "New Look," he transformed the shirtdress from wartime utilitarianism to relaxed domesticity, and the trend took hold and didn't let go throughout the 1950s. The dresses I found for this foray into the mid- to late-'40s (again, as best I can tell!) span the war through the post-war transformation.
Slightly gauzy and beautifully patterned, this war-era dress shows the shorter hemline and spare fabric usage of the mid-'40s. The fabric and small pleating allows for a slightly flow-y feel in the skirt without using more yardage.
Hello nurse! Though I don't know that this dress actually made the rounds of the Red Cross, its utilitarian design--smart pockets, sharp collar, easy-on shirtwaist style--certainly evokes the height of World War II.
This next dress is a slight puzzle for me, to be honest-- the length and full skirt, combined with the very fitted waist, make me think late 1940s, but it has a zipper down the back, rather than the side. Does anyone think it might be '50s instead? Either way, it's post-war, and it's just gorgeous.
**Correction: Savvy reader Laura showed me why I was so unsure about this dress in the comments below--it's from the SIXTIES (*headdesk*)--and links to a dress just like it in Mad Men! Awesome, awesome catch, Laura!**
...until you see the back.
That bow is padded. Talk about extra oomph.
Though I didn't find any 1947 "New Look" pieces in the theater's wardrobe, I did find examples of the late '40s-'50s shirtwaist dress:
In addition to the great tomato hue of this piece, the detailing at the pockets is a great detail:
I didn't find anything about this label in particular, but then again, Googling "Betty Blaine label" pulls up stories about a homophobic Jamaican politician, so. I didn't dig too deep, but I thought I'd include it in case anyone knows about it!
I only have one photo of this last dress because, truly, I have never found a less photogenic dress in my life. It's partially because of fit, but also because of the stiffness of the fabric. It has a sort of sheen, and is the noisiest fabric I've ever encountered-- my boss said she's been dying to put it on stage, but can't, because it'd lead to a horrible Singin' in the Rain-esque moment, thanks to the zzzzzp, zzzzp, zzzzp! it makes at every move.
|Hip-level scalloping adds fullness to the skirt.|