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Cocktail dress with choker and hat - Maxim's

Maxim's

  • Object:

    Cocktail dress with choker and hat

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    1947 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Dior, Christian, born 1905 - died 1957 (designer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silk velvet and wool, ribbed silk, lined with silk and boned, gathered and ruched tulle, and paste

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs David Bruce

  • Museum number:

    T.116 to B-1974

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The spring 1947 collection of Christian Dior (1905-1957) caused a sensation and was christened 'The New Look' by Carmel Snow of Harper's Bazaar. Dior offered the glamour and romance of full skirts and nipped-in waists to women who were tired of utilitarian clothes with boxy silhouettes, mannish square shoulders and practical short skirts. This intricately cut afternoon dress of black wool, named 'Maxim's', was worn with a black tulle cartwheel hat, long black gloves and simple black court shoes. To emphasise the bust, a large silk velvet bow was set into the low, square neckline and the waist was compressed by a cummerbund-style lower bodice. A heavy ribbed silk petticoat supports and defines the skirt. The dress fastens with a zip down the back .

Physical description

Cocktail outfit consisting of a black woollen and velvet dress with attached corded silk waist petticoat, tulle hat and velvet chocker.

Place of Origin

Paris (made)

Date

1947 (made)

Artist/maker

Dior, Christian, born 1905 - died 1957 (designer)

Materials and Techniques

Silk velvet and wool, ribbed silk, lined with silk and boned, gathered and ruched tulle, and paste

Dimensions

Weight: 1.7 kg, Circumference: 865 mm, Length: 1285 mm

Object history note

Worn and given by Evangeline Bruce (1914-1995). Mrs Bruce was the wife of the Honourable David Bruce, US ambassador to France from 1949 to 1952.

In the notebook of the Dior Archive, the dress is referred to as a 'Restaurant Dress'.

Historical context note

THE NEW LOOK panel text from The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957

"Dior launched his new house on 12 February 1947 and became an overnight sensation. His voluptuous collection was the antithesis of lean, boxy wartime fashions. Instead, feminine designs featured rounded shoulders, a womanly bust and a hand-span waist above enormous skirts. It was christened on the spot by Carmel Snow, editor of American Harper’s Bazaar, as the ‘New Look’.

The amount of fabric required to create a New Look garment – typically 15 metres in a woollen day dress, 25 metres in a short taffeta evening gown – caused outrage, for rationing was still in place. The collection was shown in secret to Princess Margaret at the French Embassy in London. But despite attempts by the Board of Trade to suppress it, the New Look was unstoppable."

“Evangeline (Bruce) performed her job with such panache and aplomb that she became the country’s standard bearer as far as diplomacy went. … She had become the State Department’s last word on good taste” writes C. David Heymann in The Georgetown Ladies’ Social Club: Power, Passion, and Politics in the Nation's Capital (Atria Books: 2004)

Descriptive line

'New Look' Cocktail outfit 'Maxim's' from 'La Ligne Corolle', consisting of a woollen and velvet dress with corded silk petticoat, tulle hat and velvet chocker, designed by Christian Dior, Paris, 1947

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

British Vogue, April 1947, p.46
Rothstein, N., ed., '400 Years of Fashion' (London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1984), p.91
Wilcox, C., ed., The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957 (V&A Publications, London: 2007), p.166 & pl.7.10
Vogue (French edition), May 1950, p.41
www.timelifepictures.com
Ref no: 50768897
Mendes, Valerie. Black In Fashion. London: V&A Publications, 1999.

Labels and date

'Maxim's' afternoon dress and hat, with choker
Christian Dior (1905-57)
Paris
1947 spring/summer

'Maxim's' also featured in Dior's first collection. It was named after the famous belle époque Parisian café frequented by high society. [21 words]

Dress: wool with silk bow with boned and corded silk petticoat
Hat: net
Choker: velvet ribbon with glass

Given by Mrs Evangeline Bruce
V&A: T.116&A, B-1974 [22/09/2007]
ROBE DE PETIT DINER
'Maxim', woollen crepe and silk velvet
French, Paris, Christian Dior spring 1947

The sheen of the vast bow is set against the matt surface of creped wool. This dress and the suit 'Bar' were the two outfits which epitomised Dior's New Look and were much featured in the fashion press of spring and summer 1947. The natural female curves are exaggerated - the bust is emphasised by the large set-in bow, the waist is drawn in tight by a cummerbund-style lower bodice and the hips are rounded out by inner stiff net frills and outer unpressed triple pleats falling into stand-away pockets. The back skirt is given fullness by a pair of large inverted pleats and Dior was to elaborate on this back theme in his 1948 Envol and Zig Zag collections.

According to French Vogue (May-June 1947) this is a luncheon dress but the low, almost off-the-shoulder square-neckline (secured inside by a cased elastic drawstring) suggests cocktails. The intricately cut garment depends on a boned foundation and a stiff grosgrain petticoat. It back fastens with zips and self-covered buttons.

Worn and given by Mrs David Bruce
The Cecil Beaton Collection
T.116&A-1974 [1983-84]

Materials

Broadcloth; Velvet; Silk; Net

Techniques

Weaving

Categories

Fashion; Women's clothes; Hats & headwear; Jewellery; Accessories

Production Type

Haute couture

Collection

Textiles and Fashion Collection

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