Thursday, February 11, 2010

New Look & Open Poll

Exactly 63 years ago today, Christian Dior's New Look was introduced on February 12, 1947. The two lines of designs Dior had presented were code-named "Corolla" and "Eight" (including the new "Bar suit" silhouette) but the "New Look" catch-phrase which immortalised this particular silhouette came after Harper's Bazaar 's editor-in-chief Carmel Snow exclaimed after seeing the collection: "It's such a New Look!"

The New Look relied on a signature shape of below-mid-calf length, full-skirt, large bust (unheard of at least since 1912), and small waist. With it came a reprised feminity that had been romanticized anew after the vagaries of the war which had made women more dynamic-looking. And of course the perfumes followed, with the secretly naughty Miss Dior, the fruity chypre Diorama and the radiant Diorissimo in the designer's name, all through others which came in the 1950s and early 1960s by Balmain, Balenciaga, Lentheric, Carven et al, defining an era of petticoat crinolines underneath stiff taffeta whish-whashing their way down the Technicolour avenues of the everyday life. Metaphorically, as well as literally, the style demanded a certain demeanour from its wearer who had to exude some restraint and heaps of natural elegance.

So on to you: Which perfumes do you consider New-Look-compliant and which do you love out of this group?

Photo of Renee sporting the New Look by Dior at Place de la Concorde, Paris 1947, by Richard Avedon. Photo of New Look design via buctopia blog.


  1. What a wonderful anniversary to remind us of, E. I love the look also, but probably would have to be taller to carry it off. Perfumes... hmmm.... I think most of my personal favorites would qualify - the classic Guerlains, Femme, Le Dix, Je Reviens, Bal a Versailles to name a few.

  2. I recently got a hold of Lancome's La Collection (how gorgeous is Sagamore? I appreciate all of the collection, but that one went right to my "SMELLS SO GOOD!" lizard brain like...ZIP!) and felt like Climat and Magie might both be scents that a Betty Draper might wear. Maybe this is New Look or maybe not? I suppose those two would be my guesses.

  3. For me, Jolie Madame really evokes this era, although when I actually think about the clothes, I always think of something ultra-feminine like Memoire Cherie--though I suppose that one was a bit downscale for the New Look!

  4. Fiordiligi11:39

    How marvellous! The New Look always reminds me of my glamorous aunt who is the one who instilled in me my great love of perfume.

    The perfumes? Definitely Miss Dior and Jolie Madame (though that came later), but also Vent Vert - the wind of change blowing though the whole world as well as the fashion world after the end of WWII.

  5. zazie13:24

    To me the new look dresses look like open flowers and smell like optimism.
    They conjure images of bright florals, like Diorissimo and Joy (I know, the former came out a bit later and the latter was made for the ’29 depression, but they’re new look to me!).
    I appreciate those perfumes, but have never worn them. I am not really a new look – groomed, impeccable and womanly - lady.
    I would rather project myself in the early Twenties: headband, flapper dress, cigar and Jicky. Or in the early seventies: YSL Saharienne and bandit. But I am already off subject, ain't I? ;)

  6. I'm a bit conflicted about the "new look" because, although the clothes were beautiful and, I believe, a response to un-rationed fabric in postwar France, this was also part of the re-corseting of women, especially in the US. In order to carry off the look, unless you were perfectly shaped, you had to wear a medieval-looking undergarment called a "Merry Widow" that cinched in the waist, and a girdle, and one of those armored brassieres, and the petticoats. (I know all this because I remember my mother struggling into them, and she wasn't plump.) At the same time, women's magazines were trumpeting a return to the home along with movies and TV -- suburban moms mopping floors in new-look dresses, pearls and heels -- all seems a little ridiculous now, but the men returning from WWII needed the jobs, so the synergistic effort arose to get the women to go home. And they did.

    Like Zazie, I prefer the Twenties fashions -- shift dresses, low heels, bobbed hair. It meant a liberation from corsets and curling irons, which arose (again) with the "new look."

    Interesting that the perfumes, while structured, were strong and not girly. I love "Miss Dior" and the others. Almost a counterpoint to the clothing.

  7. condesadepitimini16:05

    To me it's Diorissimo and Miss Dior, but also Madame Rochas, Jolie Madame, and the Balenciagas...

  8. I very much associate this period with Balenciaga's LE DIX wich I loove very much because of my adoration for violette.
    I wish a unilateral comeback of Elegance. I'd vote for it right now ^_^

  9. D,

    isn't it?

    I am stumped at the classic Guerlains: they often remind me of either 20s-30s or l'avant-guerre (pre-war). Femme, Le Dix, and Je Reviens seem very New Look fitting though! Great choices!!

  10. Pro,

    interesting story (Sagamore is a leathery one, you minx, you!) and I think your guess isn't off the mark. Climat seems a little airier and 60s-tinged, but Magie is definitely the smell of a 50s woman in twinset, full skirt and elegant heels.

  11. M,

    now there's a thought!! Was E.Arden as low-brow as all that? I'm curious now. What do you think?

    I find Jolie Madame is excellent for this. The violet, the powder, the vibe of leather in the background...

  12. D,

    what a wonderful introduction to fragrance! The guiding hand of an older discerning woman who is close to you is a priceless advantage. I recall my own mother and grandmother always having wonderful fragrances and allowing me to "play" with them a little bit, sometimes with erratic and destructive results (good thing granma had orders from Paris and Vienna all the time)

    Vent Vert!! But that is a grand idea, the optimism, the refreshing green, the young vibe of it! You're absolutely correct.


  13. Zazie,

    I'm more of the YSL Saharienne & Bandit type myself ;-) (After all, our modern lives do not really allow for all those crinolines, eh? And how constricting!)And please do allow yourself to veer off subject, it's quite interesting.

    I simply LOVE your description, your first sentence: "the new look dresses look like open flowers and smell like optimism". *sigh*
    And I totally agree on Diorissimo, it's so completely flower-like, open and ready to see the nicest things in life...

    Wonder was it a "constructed"/orchestrated optimism, so that the world could rebuild itself after WWII or was it that the era allowed for more exhuberance in itself (new technologies, television, etc)? What do you think?

  14. P,

    very interesting commentary, keep them coming! :-)

    It's astounding to think that women were so enthused for fashions which basically took them back half a century. I guess Dior made them look like Chanel and Patou never existed! But it's forgiven, since they look so delightfully elegant...Still, the feministic issue you bring to the fore is important especially in view to your aunt's experience. I wonder whether it strikes you that the restrictive fashions had a purpose to keep women out of the workforce in manual labor/factory working etc. After all, manual labor had the disadvantage of not allowing a woman courage for bringing up babies, which I suppose -as you surmiss- would be needed after WWII. Might as well keep them in an office typing off, wouldn't you say?

    I find the chypres especially of the era paradigms of restraint; something which the clothes demanded from the wearer and not the couturier! Miss Dior is FABULOUS in vintage versions from the 50s and the 60s. It keeps rather well too (contrary to Diorissimo, alas).

  15. Condesa,

    your choices fit well, indeed! I especially like the Balenciagas, La Fuite des Heures is an especially New Look perfume to me. Very elegant, very haute, very feminine too.

  16. V,

    oh yeah, Le Dix is smooooooooth and delicious. Such a lady of a scent!

    I do hope elegance returns, albeit not with corsets and contraptions accompanying it. At least not restrictive ones; I might do a concession or two for microfibre smalls ;-)

  17. So much interesting thought...

    For me, the Guerlain that goes with New Look is Chamade. Bitter, a bit; floral, in a green way; a change up for Guerlain, and a changer on your skin. Right, it definitely comes after the calendar era...but somehow the smell, and the spirit, seem the same.

    Funny, while I get the critique of what New Look represents ("get Rosie the Riveter out of coveralls and back into 'feminine' pursuits"), I also have an issue with those Roaring Twenties fashions. Sure, the dropped shapeless waist and bobbed hair got Gibson girls out of whalebone and long tresses...but successful wearing of those fashions was limited to slender hipped, flat chested women. Fashion is a tyrant, pretty much wherever you look.

    As for other New Look scents, I like to think they've got to mix cool with a hint of feminine...the voluminous skirt covers most of what is required to say "female." What about Shocking (flowers with rudeness)? On the other hand, maybe just being full of scent (over the top, like the exaggerated style), a la Bal a Versailles ?

  18. Very confused- am certain I posted on this yesterday and it must not have worked. So... I wrote a project on the New Look at college and think Dior was a genius. Perfume wise I love Miss Dior because it's still slightly avante garde but incredibly elegant and because my Mother wore it for a time. I think Diorissimo is everything a feminine perfume should be and it's basically the only lily I like- but I adore it. It deserves to be a constant top seller and I don't know why they don't make more of it over at Dior.

  19. Rebecca12:12

    Hi there, I was wondering if you might be able to help me. I recently acquired a 10ml bottle of diorissimo esprit de parfum which is encased in a silver, houndstooth pattered covering. The bottle is refillable and is a spray. I've tried looking for it everywhere online but can't seem to find it. I'm trying to find out if the bottle is genuine, and if so if it is worth anything. Any help would be greatly appreciated!!


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