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Historic Clothing Collection


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"New Look" dress with belt, ca. 1955Maine Historical Society

Additionally, there are two particularly striking and unmistakably "New Look" inspired examples in the collection. A tiny black and white check rustling nylon seersucker dress, with red piped details, pointed collar, dolman sleeves, red plastic belt, and very full ‘circle’ gored skirt with an attached heavy frilled red rayon underskirt. Sharing the same color scheme, a two-piece ensemble is comprised of a gored, very flared stiff paper nylon skirt of black and white checks, overprinted with a black flock floral design. The red fine knit dolman sleeve sweater was originally worn with the skirt and the collection also includes the black high heel shoes that completed the outfit.

Capped sleeve dress, ca. 1955
Capped sleeve dress, ca. 1955Maine Historical Society

After the initial excitement and novelty of long full skirts, Dior's more formal and very wearable day fashions became better known. The originals, afforded by the wealthy, were famously crafted with hidden details such as corsetry, padding, darts and pleating to shape the style to fit the client’s body. Glamorous designs were reserved for evening wear.

Of course many women still wore older styles, one of which is a very wearable lightweight gray/green rayon crepe, with small yellow printed flowers, capped sleeves, and a high waist with ties to the back. Then there were individuals who opted for conservative versions of current fashions, as seen in a simple below knee rib rayon princess-line dress with a small blueberry-like spot print. Well-worn everyday dresses tend not to remain pristine, and are thus not saved, whereas the extreme and special occasion garments such as the described flared skirts, tend to survive. This, of course, impacts collections held at museums and like institutions where everyday fashions are fewer and far between.