Haute Couture in the 50’s

Haute couture is the creation of original and signed designs of clothes of high quality and artisan manufacture by a couturier or designer. The founder of the haute couture was the Englishman Charles Frederic Worth, in 1858. Basically, the difference between haute couture and the ‘low’ one is that they have private customers, fashion shows and they must show two different collections in Paris every year with at least 75 original models per collection. All the models must be made in their own workshops, as they must accomplish the exigencies of the Chambre Syndical de la Couture. From 1950’s, many fashion houses started to create items for mass productions and nowadays part of their business strategy is to give brand licences for cosmetics, perfumes and so on. The 50’s were a brilliant period for haute couture.

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNCMM77ku8k (Accessed on 06/12/11)

Christian Dior and the New Look

In the aftermath of World War II, Dior presented his Corolla Line, very elegant, sophisticated and aristocratic – in contrast with the austerity of war times –, renamed by Harper’s Bazaar magazine as ‘New Look’. Basques, spike heels and tulle frilly petticoats became very popular and skirts and dresses length was under the knee. This collection was controversial because the amount of fabric used on the models was excessive considering the economic situation in that period. The most famous suit of this collection is the ‘Bar’ suit:

Bar’ suit, Christian Dior, 1947. Photograph by Willy Maywald.Source:  http://www.edym.com/CD-tex/01mod/11/11060500.htm (accessed on 07/12/2011)

More information about the ‘Bar’ suit:

Furthermore, he invented the cocktail dress. It soon was included in almost all the collections of every designer and became a new social exigency. In Boletín de la Moda, issue 1 (1952) we can read: ‘The cocktail party demands a way of dressing that calls for a low-cut neckline and brilliantly-cut rich fabric; a garment that is not quite an evening dress, but more like suspension points leading up to it.’

When Dior died in 1957, he left Yves Saint Laurent in charge of his fashion house. Yves would become one of the most important designers of the post-war period, especially in the 60’s and the 70’s.

Other very important designers of this period are Givenchy, Balenciaga and Chanel.


The haute couture only created for adult and rich women, forgetting young women and their demand of sportive clothes for summer. Some designers realized that they were capable of attracting customers with that profile with fashionable suits from mass productions, as it was common inUSA. The seeds of prêt-à-porter fashion are, precisely, in the fifties.

Spanish fashion houses in the 50’s

Some of the most important designers from Spain are Cristóbal Balenciaga, Pedro Rodríguez, Marbel (Eusebio Oller Roca), Manuel Pertegaz, Vargas-Ochavía and Herrera and Ollero.

What makes Spanish fashion different is the importance of tradition and folklore. Designers are inspired by paintings of Goya, Velázquez and other masters, but they still followParis’ rules. The most important cities for fashion in Spain were Madrid and Barcelona, but some designers had to move to Paris.

Another Spanish singularity, ‘las colecciones de campo y playa’ (the countryside and beach collections), were composed of simple summer suits made mainly of cotton with lower prices. These collections were shown every June.

‘A couturier must be an architect for design, a sculptor for shape, a painter for colour, a musician for harmony and a philosopher for temperance’ – Cristóbal Balenciaga


Cocktail dress (1960), Cristóbal Balenciaga.















Dress (1953), Pedro Rodríguez

Models for the House of Marbel Juanita and Viki – La moda en España, 1955

Herrera and Ollero

A few outfits presented at the World’s Fair in Brussels –  Boletín de la moda, 1958

Iguácel Cuiral – Group 8


‘El reinado de la Alta Costura: la moda de la primera mitad del siglo XX’ http://museodeltraje.mcu.es/popups/publicaciones-electronicas/2007-indumenta0/Indumenta00-13-IVA.pdf. Isabel Vaquero Argüelles. Accessed on 06/12/2011.

‘Alta Costura, costura de altura en los años 50’http://museodeltraje.mcu.es/popups/publicaciones-electronicas/2009-Indumenta1/2.Alta_Costura_50.pdf . Mercedes Pasalodos Salgado. Accessed on 06/12/2011.

‘Christian Dior lanza el New Look’ http://www.edym.com/CD-tex/01mod/11/11060500.htm.  Accessed on 07/12/2011.

Moda de los años 50 http://www.imujer.com/2009/09/10/moda-de-los-anos-50. Accessed on 07/12/2011.


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