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Cocktail dress - 'Ecarlate' (scarlet); La Ligne Y

'Ecarlate' (scarlet); La Ligne Y

  • Object:

    Cocktail dress

  • Place of origin:

    Paris, France (made)

  • Date:

    1955 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Dior, born 1905 - died 1957 (designer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silk grosgrain, lined with silk, nylon and organza net, and tulle; with metal coil 'boning' in the bodice

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Christian Dior (1905-57) launched his couture house in 1947, and soon became one of the most sucessful fashion designers of the 20th century. The smooth silhouette of this dress is formed by underpinnings and petticoats. the draped fabric knot is inspired by 19th-century dress, and is typical of Dior's historicism.

Dior often named his collections after letters of the alphabet, and this particular dress comes from the 'Y line'. The deep v-neck of this dress typifies Dior's 'Y' motif, as does the inverted Y shape of the pleats of the skirt.

Physical description

The dress is made from a fine grosgrain crimson silk. It has a very full skirt, made fuller by two wrap-around panels at each hip with fringed ties that twist at the hip to create a bow. It has a tailored shirt-like top, comprising full-length sleeves, collar, and a deep V-neck front which fastens with 2 self-covered buttons. The top is partly lined with red silk at the front. There is an underdress which attaches to the main inside of the dress at the waist. The bodice of the underdresss is made of red silk organza and fastens with metal hooks and eyes at the front. The bodice has metal coil 'boning' and should also have thin shoulder straps, only one of which is still evident though loose from one side. The all-red skirt of the underdress is made up of a layer of organza and nylon net, 5 layers of gathered tulle with additional gathered tulle panels at each hip, and another underskirt of organza and nylon net.

Place of Origin

Paris, France (made)


1955 (made)


Dior, born 1905 - died 1957 (designer)

Materials and Techniques

Silk grosgrain, lined with silk, nylon and organza net, and tulle; with metal coil 'boning' in the bodice

Marks and inscriptions

No label


Circumference: 63 cm waist, Circumference: 85 cm bust, Circumference: 600 cm bottom hem

Object history note

This piece was designed by Christian Dior for his Autumn/winter 1955 Y-line collection, and is called 'Ecarlate' (Scarlet). It is a red silk cocktail dress, and is very typical of Dior at this time as it features and exceptionally full skirt and a bow effect for which Dior is noted. It is also of a deep 'Dior' red, which he often used. It is an excellent example f couture construction and pattern cutting.
The deep V-neck typifies Dior's Y-line motif, as does the inverted Y shape of the pleats of the skirt.
It was purchased at auction in Paris specifically for The Golden Age of Couture exhibition, and its publication

Historical context note

The Y-line directly followed the A-line collection of the Spring/Summer season. The Y line was less easy to pinpoint than the A, but basically it was defined as a slender body with a top-heavy look. This Dior achieved by adding big collars that opened up in a V shape, like the arms of the Y. (Brigid Keenan, Dior in Vogue, p.132)

Descriptive line

Red silk grosgrain cocktail dress, Christian Dior, Paris, Autumn/winter 1955-6

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Wilcox, C., ed., The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-57 (V&A Publications, London: 2007), p. 75 & p.151
Images from the Dior Archive, Paris

Exhibition History

The Golden Age of Couture. Paris and London 1947 - 1957 (V&A 22/09/2007-06/01/2008)

Labels and date

'Ecarlate' cocktail dress
Christian Dior (1905-57)
1955-6 autumn/winter

Although Dior created a couture house that defined a new era of commercial success for French couture, his designs evoked an older, more formal, more romantic era. The smooth silhouette of this dress is formed by underpinnings and petticoatsthe fringed bows and fabric knots, inspired by 19th-century dress. Cecil Beaton described him as 'the Watteau of fashion'.

Silk faille
V&A: T.25-2007 [22/09/2007]

Production Note

Autumn/winter collection 1955-6


Silk; Nylon net


Weaving; Tailoring'


Fashion; Clothing; Textiles; Europeana Fashion Project

Production Type

Haute couture

Collection code


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