From the start of haute couture to the disaster of double denim, we take a look at fashion through the decades and the stars with influence. Part 1 covers 1920 - 1960s. What to check out the rest? Check out Style's digital edition out now.
Haute couture was born, bursting forth from the confines of the corset. Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel (1883–1971), a then unconventional designer in life and in garments, freed the waist and the bosom. It reportedly caused a bit of a ruckus with some miserly male fashion journalists, “No more bosom, no more stomach, no more rump.” Her garments made of jersey allowed for movement and she is synonymous with the ‘Little Black Dress’ and the Chanel suit collarless jacket.
Chanel’s reported arch-rival Elsa Schiaparelli also created a storm with her maverick designs. Schiaparelli worked closely with surrealist artists like Salvador Dali and was known for the ‘Schiaparelli Shocking Pink’; divided skirt (culottes); jumpsuits and a hat in the shape of an upturned shoe. What else would you expect from a mischievous girl who once opened a jar of fleas under her parents’ dinner table because she wasn’t invited?
Dior and his New Look models. PHOTO: GETTY
“Dior doesn’t dress women, he upholsters them!” Chanel was not amused by Christian Dior’s New Look of the 1940s – nor were feminists. It was back to the cinched-in waists, alongside padded hips and tight-fitting jackets.
The 1950s saw the pairing of the first ‘influencers’ before there was such a word. Hubert de Givenchy reportedly first turned down movie star Audrey Hepburn’s initial request to dress her for the movie Sabrina (1954), but she persisted by inviting him out to dinner. And so it was born, a platonic love affair between muse and creator. Givenchy is responsible for some of Hepburn’s most iconic looks, from the elegant black dress of the worldly but innocent Holly Golightly of Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) to Hepburn’s own wedding gown.
The world was transfixed by the young Jacqueline Kennedy, Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor and trends like the Twiggy miniskirt and Yves Saint Laurent women’s tuxedo.