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Historic Clothing Collection


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Blue and white check dress, ca. 1955
Blue and white check dress, ca. 1955Maine Historical Society

Introduced in 1947, Dior's "New Look" featured neatly rounded shoulders, small tight waists, and long flared skirts held out by petticoats. Following the austerity and fabric shortages of the War years, this feminine look was happily embraced by some, but a point of controversy among those who thought the fashion too extravagant, and perhaps a little backward looking. Nevertheless, in due course, this new fashion influenced most wardrobes to some degree, and is most recognizable in the mid 1950s teenage girl's, almost ubiquitous, full skirts and dresses worn with bobby socks and penny loafers.

Printed circle skirt, ca. 1955
Printed circle skirt, ca. 1955Maine Historical Society

Perhaps the collection’s nearest to a teen bobby sockster’s dress is a white collared blue and white cotton gingham with a full gathered skirt and stiff net petticoat, associated with Ann Clark, and labeled "A David Crystal Fashion." In the absence of a famous poodle skirt, the next best example is a flared white cotton "circle" skirt, printed with a 1950s design of clean-cut orange, teal and black abstract fish and other shapes, labeled "Jo Collins," the Junior Label of the Mandell Manufacturing Company of St. Louis.

The emergent youth culture, with its rock & roll and pop music, and move towards less formal dress stimulated growth of a new branch of the clothing industry, one that specialized in the design and manufacture of clothes for the young market. Parallel with these developments in the late 1950s to early 1960s, the custom of girls and young women dressing or wearing hair and make-up like their mothers, faded away.