Christian Dior And Golden Period Of Haute Couture Fashion

The golden age of haute couture was marked by the introduction of the New Look collection designed by fashion house Dior in 1947 and lasting for a decade thereafter.

Designer Christian Dior and model in his outfit

The birth of the New Look collection of Dior fashion houses in 1947 marked the beginning of an important decade in fashion history (1947-1957), a decade that Christian Dior called the golden age of haute couture.  This was a period of joy after the end of World War II and ushered in a new era of high fashion that could hardly be compared.

In Paris, couture houses such as Balenciaga, Balmain and Fath attract worldwide fans with gorgeous and graceful designs. Meanwhile London fashion is famous for the formal gowns made by royal tailors and the costumes perfectly sewn by designers like Hardy Amies.

Designers Pierre Balmain and Ruth Ford dressed in his outfit. Photo taken in 1947. Source: wiki


In 1939, there were 70 mainstream couture houses in Paris, including major brands such as Chanel, Schiaparelli and Balenciaga. This flourishing industry was interrupted by World War II when hostilities took place in Paris. Individual customers were scattered, international sales were almost frozen and many couture houses closed. The Germans planned to move the couture industry to Berlin, but Lucien Lelong, designer and president of the Paris Couture Association (Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne) at the time, was strongly opposed. He declared “either in Paris or nowhere”.

A couture design by Elsa Schiaparelli in 1953

A Balenciaga design in 1952

Balenciaga prom dress in 1955

For two years from 1945 to 1946, couture houses in Paris worked together on the Théâtre de la Mode exhibition with nearly 200 fashion-wear dolls made by artists such as Christian Bérard and Jean Cocteau. The tour encountered many difficulties, such as not having enough electricity to run machinery and lights but still traveling throughout the United Kingdom, through Scandinavian countries and the United States. The exhibition aims to raise funds for war victims and to promote French fashion.


Jacket: Bar, La Ligne Corolle in Christian Dior’s New Look collection, designed in 1947, product made in 1955

On February 12, 1947, designer Christian Dior launched the New Look collection and it became a phenomenon overnight. It was a collection of femininity and sensuality, with puffy skirts, small waist and calf length. It was a way for Dior to express his anti-war point of view against the strong masculinity of war costumes. The collection made Carmel Snow, editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar US magazine, “A new look.” Since then the name New Look is also associated with the collection. London coutureist John Cavanagh described these designs as “a perfect tribute to the curves of women”.

The flannel wool jacket in Dior’s New Look collection of 1947

During the post-war period, fabrics were very limited, but Dior used up to 20 meters of lavish fabrics for his creations. This was an outrage in London. As a result, the collection had to secretly show it to Queen Elizabeth and the royal family members at the French Embassy in London. Despite being condemned by the British Board of Trade, New Look is still widely welcomed, especially after Princess Margaret wore it, showing off her feminine and youthful beauty.


The production of haute couture has an essential influence on the prestige and economy of both England and France. While fashion houses maintain their private offerings to affluent customers, they are starting to tap into new markets. Fashion brands began producing more fragrances, opening boutiques and allowing a variety of designs in smaller countries, pioneered by Christian Dior. Initially, when Christian Dior initiated the machining of a series of designs, he was criticized by the French couture Council. However, until Dior’s reputation spread to the international market, sales soared, other fashion houses could not ignore it. By the late 1950s, the leading couture houses in Paris all became global brands.

Model in a design by Dior in 1955

The sudden departure of Christian Dior in 1957 put an end to the golden age of haute couture. The socio-economic change has made fashion more popular, reaching more consumers. The demand for high-end fashion is not as strong as it used to be, but haute couture is still a heritage of sophisticated art and craftsmanship of French fashion houses.

According to: Victoria & Albert Museum


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