Saturday, August 23, 2014

Decades: Finds from the Mid- to Late 1940s


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!**





The tri-color floral pattern on a cream background amps up the femininity of what is otherwise a fairly restrained silhouette...



...until you see the back.



That bow is padded.  Talk about extra oomph.



Hot damn, I love this dress.





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.


But it's a great silhouette, right? The full collar, cuffed sleeves, and full skirt add up to the classic New Look shirtwaist style.

Hip-level scalloping adds fullness to the skirt.
I hope you've liked this collection of dresses-- next up, the final installment of "Decades": a small but special group of 1950s gowns!

12 comments :

  1. January Jones wore a version of that third dress on Mad Men! There are photos here http://tomandlorenzo.com/2010/06/mad-style-betty-draper-s1-part-1-2/. So I'd imagine it's very late fifties, if Betty's wearing it in 1960? Although of course, the costume designer could have made a mistake.

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    1. Holy cow, you're so right! I think you (and the costume designer) are dead on, and the dress was probably mis-organized in my theater's costume storage. Great eye!

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  2. Loved seeing a glimpse of all these beauties! Thanks for sharing. P x

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  3. I found a 1945 newspaper ad for Betty Blaine shirtwaist dresses (you have to subscribe to few the image, but the text is available). http://www.newspapers.com/newspage/15551702/
    And here's the patent information: http://www.google.com/patents/US2236269 .

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    1. That's awesome, thank you so much-- what a great find!

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  4. That white dress is sooo cute on you! And the last dress is so interesting, shame it can't be used on stage. I love your sharing of these dresses, they're so fascinating!

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    1. Thanks! I'll be honest, that white dress was basically *painted* over my hips, or else I'd've been seriously tempted to smuggle it away. I don't know that it's very usable on stage either-- white can be a tough sell under stage lights. And boy was that last dress a bizarre modeling experience-- I was like a walking New Year's Eve noisemaker!

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  5. Great stuff again! I love looking at all the amazing things you find. I do love the sixties dress, but I'm not sure how I feel about the padded bow! Did you sit in it? Did it provide extra back support or cushioning? :)

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    1. I can't believe I didn't think to sit on it. What a missed opportunity! I loved the stuffed bow for the effect it had on the silhouette, but I can definitely see it getting weird looks if I'd worn it out.

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  6. Wonderful dresses! And don't fret about getting that dress mixed up! It's okay and happens to us all at one point or another!

    Regarding back closures in the 40s, I have plenty of 40s dresses with back zips as I LOATHE side zips! So it was a thing!

    xoxo
    -Janey

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  7. gorgeous dresses again. i love shirtwaist dresses the most ... but i really love the early sixties dress that made it in this 40s post. :)

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