dress & suit
Black, narrowly corded, silk-faille ensemble, comprising bodice and 2 separate skirts, one narrow and one wide. Bodice with a wide neckline and fold-over collar, and 3 self covered buttons, lightly boned with tulle inner corset section fastened to the front with hooks and eyes. Large woven label, 'Christian Dior, Paris, 02195' with hand written ink label to reverse, '72081'. Two interchangeable skirts, in matching silk, one narrow with 12 self covered buttons fastening CF, and one circular with 4 buttons to fasten at side hip. The suit was commissioned by Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, from Christian Dior, Paris, in 1949. Two sketches and one model photograph from the Dior Archives identify a very similar outfit from spring/summer 1949: Ligne Trompe L'oeil. There is a photograph of the Duchess of Winsdor with the Duke, at Waldorf Towers in June 1948, wearing a very similar black New Look suit. The suit with its separate narrow and wide skirts exemplifies the twin silhouettes of the 'New Look' and meant that the Duchess could produce different looks with the same bodice. The outfit was presented by Wallis to her lady's maid in Paris, Joan Martin, who then left it to relatives.The Duchess was very slim and 5feet 5inches tall.
A short, boxy jacket and three-quarter length sleeves lend an almost doll-like quality to this white suit by Yves St Laurent at Dior in 1960, and casts a retrospective eye towards Chanel's celebrated boucle suits. Dior's famous New Look, characterised by narrow waistlines and wide skirts had a long reign in the world of haute couture, and the Gallery recently acquired a coat dress in chestnut silk satin by Dior in about 1955. This dress belonged to Faith Eaton, the Queen's doll restorer who lived in Little Venice, and the suggestion has been made that this outfit was far to grand for her, so was a perquisite from the Queen or Princess Margaret in the late 1950s. Another black cocktail dress of the same date was bought from Christian Dior, London around 1956, followed by a dress dated 1960, when slimmer and shorter styles were popular, and daywear was increasingly required to look neat, chic and simple. The next three images show the Duchess of Windsor's Dior outfit of about 1950 which she commissioned to have interchangeable wide and narrow skirt, exemplifying the 'New Look'. Then there are two seminal collection outfits from the Zigzag line (1948) and the Tulip line (1953). The last image, a printed silk cocktail dress, is from 1956. Dior's died suddenly in 1957 leaving behind a fashion house at the peak of success. House of Dior has maintained its position in the forefront of couture, employing its iconic logo to good effect in peripheral accessories and products as varied as perfume, luggage and handbags. A series of high-profile head designers working under the Dior label, starting with Yves St Laurent, and including such figures as Marc Bohan and John Galliano, have added glamour, humour and panache to the respectability of a long-established company, and ensured its continuing success.
dress & suit
skirt hem (circumference): 93cm
skirt length: 78cm
Place of creation
© Manchester Art Gallery