In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Historic Clothing Collection

Mid Twentieth Century

There is little in the collection to tell of the War year's make-do-and-mend fabric scarcity, or regulations restricting garment manufacture. There is, however, a good selection illustrating, to one degree or another, the pervasive influence of French designer Dior's 1947 revolutionary "New Look" with its extravagant long, very full skirts.

As design moved beyond the War years, the emergence of youth culture dominated fashions. Understandably, a shrinking percentage of shoppers retained a preference for more familiar, traditional styles of dress. Factions formed, iconic styles took hold, and silhouettes continuously changed throughout the mid twentieth century.

The mid twentieth century (1950-1980) clothing at Maine Historical Society is but a small fraction of the Society's overall garment holdings, which at present (2020), lack many of the key elements associated with the period. However, there are certainly representative designs for the era, ideally with the future potential to collect clothing from the more recent past. Most of the collections' mid twentieth century garments stem from the Westbrook College collection. The exception being Korean and Vietnam War-era military uniforms, which are well represented at MHS.

The acquisition of the Westbrook College Collection by Maine Historical Society in 1993 shifted the Society's historic clothing holdings from a primarily early 19th century collection, to one dominated by women's wear from the 1870s to the 1930s. Although, despite this focus, the featured mid twentieth century examples within this narrative are almost exclusively from the Westbrook College Collection.