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Historic Clothing Collection


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Dior inspired prom dress, ca. 1960
Dior inspired prom dress, ca. 1960Maine Historical Society

As earlier noted, American designers and the now highly successful garment industry, were well able to mass produce fashionable garments, and the U.S. casual wear for which American designers are best known. But, in some segments of the market, French design still held its old cachet. While pirating French couture designs was an old practice, in the 1950s some U.S. manufacturers contracted and made arrangements with French designers, including Dior, to legally bring their designs to the average American woman.

Said to be a Dior design, but lacking any labeling, the collection's 1960s bouffant short prom dress and matching stole could fall into the category of garments based on a Dior design, and made under license in the United States for the retail market. This practice became common and many European couturiers came to rely on revenues earned from licensing. While French fashions inspired design, fashion conscious U.S. consumers began to recognize and appreciate the work of American designers such as Pauline Trigère, Claire McCardle, Galanos, Adrian and others.

Rayon taffeta dress, ca. 1960
Rayon taffeta dress, ca. 1960Maine Historical Society

The collection's small group of late 1950s dressy garments include a raspberry pink rayon taffeta cocktail dress with small bows at the waist and a balloon skirt shaped with stiff interlining and a net underskirt. The label reads "Pat Sandler for Highlight"; and a two piece consisting of a dress, with a black rayon knit bodice attached to a black and white tweedy skirt and matching tweedy three-quarter sleeve edge to edge jacket with small tab ties at the lower front hem. Last in this group, a structured black rayon taffeta theater coat associated with Marion Johnson is high waisted, featuring a dramatic wide spreading collar, and a statement single button front closure. One of its inside labels reads "Ben Zuckerman New York" and the other, "Lord and Taylor."