October 21, 2014

Spring fashion (1951)

Did you read any of the recent catwalk reports? Or did you study lady's magazines to find out what the editors thought the coming season will bring? (of course, every semi-insider knows that the most recent shows were actually those for spring/summer 2015. The magazines just concentrate on the previous ones, which are more relevant for the season we are in now)

To be honest, I'm not as interested in present-day fashion news as I used to be. It's just too much of 'anything is possible' and usually hardly connected to what we will see in the street. In fact, a couple of years ago when I followed this more closely, I found that the stuff I liked usually wasn't picked up by the mainstream....

Today, to show how much has changed and how much has stayed the same, I have a fashion report from spring 1951, based on the haute couture shows in Paris. Including some very cute drawings to make the different lines, championed by different designers, a bit more clear:

A brid's eye view of spring fashion

We rush through the labyrinth of Paris - from the Rue Royale to the Avenue Montaigne, from Faubourg Saint Honore to the Place Vendome. We rush from one fashion house to the other and our invitations, sorted by date and by hour are a maze of addresses spaced far apart.

A large gate, a small shop. A stately staircase, an elevator which gets stuck between one floor and the next. Luxury salons, everywhere different, everywhere the same. In all of them, a heated battle over a place on the front row, over the first cocktail, the first nibble. 

Everywhere the same reporters. One third, gilded chairs, always a bit too narrow. Heat like in a submerged submarine. Crystal chandeliers and business-like spotlights which shine a dazzling light over it all. Flowers, sales-girls, waiters. Waiting for three quarters of an hour, until the first model steps out and is gone again before the international murmuring subsides. But even if the first outfit misses out, there are so many more to follow (collections of 170 pieces are no exception) that we we will have trouble deciphering our hasty notes later on.
For one long week, we caught show fever. Three or four shows a day kept us up, half-asleep, until well after midnight and we wrote down the specifics from the most important collections. So, let us raise the curtain for you: We are not faced with a revolutionary new spring fashion! Except the adaptation of our wardrobe to the change in season, it will continue after today like it has been since the start of the first half of this century. Beautiful and diversified versions of everything which has been produced in the field of fashion over the past few months, are presented to us. We will be able to build our spring wardrobe in a pleasing style with the help of details from previous seasons. 

If nature allows us, we will continue to wear the rounded shoulders, a small waistline will still be our ideal and the hips will still be round, artificially so, if necessary. For the rest, we have a choice from such a wide range of possibilities that there will be something to everyone's taste.
In one collection, bodices are close-fitting, in the next the are a bit wider, sometimes they are strict and have a straight button closure, in other cases, they are less sober or even a bit wild with a shawl-decoration or some drapery. Sleeves show themselves in every length imaginable, either cut on or set in, or (like at Dior) a combination of both.

Cleavages, modest in day dresses, play a varied game in the dressier outfits. They are round or oval, V-shaped or variations on the U and W form; they are cut up high against the neck, reach just to the nape of the neck or leave part of the back, shoulders and chest uncovered. Small, often very narrow collars are a favorite but large collars are also shown. 

The skirts will please everybody because the simple, slim skirt, the wide skirt and the semi-wide skirt are all there. The first ones mostly feature in suits, while also plenty a wool spring frock owes its silhouette to them. In the festive, silk dress, however, wide skirts rule. It can be either a plissee skirt or simple wide one but this spring's darling is the "apron skirt". This apron skirt, which is often removable, can be worn either around the skirt or the side or back and, thanks to a contrasting lining, it can often be worn inside out. It is closely related to the separate skirt gores which, at whatever side, add visual width to 
a slim skirt and which are responsible for the surprising and elegant play of skirts which most designers have picked as their leading principle. Often, these gores, which are not used in walking clothes, are achieved by draping. This is especially in evidence at Fath's. This designer presents his collection in the sign of the "arrow" and the "bell". Maggy Rouff, who, like so many others, is a fan of the apron skirt, launches her creations under the motto of the "moving line". Paquin chose, among other things, the X as a motif in his collection, while Diro shapes the ideal female figure from nothing but ovals and Lanvin covers her in the contours of a spinning top. Piguet is inspired not only by the pencil but also by the dancer and Lafaurie opens, in a marvelous collection, countless possibilities by taking the waves and curves of the wake of a ship as her guideline.

Griffe, who, based on his recent creations, is the furthest removed from his colleagues, plays with grey and sober strictness, which he interprets with refined modesty in the governess dresses.

Less capricious than the dresses are the coat, which, in any form, are fairly simple. The most eye-catching characteristic of the new is the narrow stand or collar, which is often combined with a low neckline.
The classic lady's suit, much seen behind the scenes, had to yield its place in the shows to the novelty versions, which enjoy a lot of attention in the spring fashion. Of the most interesting details we note: the peplum which is only rounded at the front (Griffe) and the long shawl collar which gets wider on the way down.

The fashion, as it was just launched, has a lot going for it and yet - despite the ravishing fabrics, the fairytale colours and the original prints - little news. She who opens a fashion magazine from last season, will find in it much of what we could not discuss yet in this short article. 

Hannie Vanverre

So typical for the late 1940's and early 1950's: Even fashion reporters were happy to find little news in the show for the new season... 

By the way, this is the first time I've translated an article from Beatrijs magazine (previous ones were from Libelle. Often the work of their 1940's fashion editor Caty Verbeeke). 
I hope you like it. I think such pieces give some nice extra insight in an era of fashion which many of us love.


  1. Love it! And the drawings are fabulous! Thanks for sharing!

  2. What beautiful writing. I love the declaration: "We are not faced with a revolutionary new spring fashion! Except the adaptation of our wardrobe to the change in season, it will continue after today like it has been since the start of the first half of this century." I feel like this is what we are seeing today in fashion.

    Thank you for sharing!

  3. Wonderful job translating. Great post. Thanks.