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Dior vs. Chanel: Mid-century Ideals of the Feminine Form

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Monday, January 10, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1K0193
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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The romantic feminine lines and chic textured suits that were the fashion vocabulary for women in the 1950s are admired even today. Following WWII there was a pent-up desire for opulence in high fashion and a need to put the limitations and restrictions of the war behind. Christian Dior broke out with a luxurious bounty of expansive skirts with tiny wasp waists reminiscent of the Beaux Arts corsets.

Coco Chanel, securely ensconced in Switzerland throughout the war, returned to Paris and her design roots. She created a suit that was the antithesis of the “New Look.” Her signature suits were about ease of movement with a classic rectangular silhouette and extraordinary hidden details that made it exceedingly comfortable to wear.

Join design historian Elizabeth Lay as she looks at the seeds of each style, how the materials were sourced, how they were promoted, and who bought these marvelous designs. She shares fashion photography from the 1950s plus behind-the-scenes snapshots and gives voice to each designer’s ideas. She also examines the minute details of haute couture that set these fashions apart from the ordinary.

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