‘I wanted my dresses to be constructed, moulded upon the curves of the feminine body, whose sweep they would stylize’
Christian Dior describing his ‘New Look’ collection, 1947
The ‘New Look’ that scandalised and delighted the fashion world in 1947 took some time to reach the Kays catalogue. Clothes rationing went on until 1949 and import restrictions made it prohibitively expensive to buy the many yards of fabric to create such full skirts and petticoats.
However, as early as 1950, the Kays women’s wear began to adopt a more balanced hourglass shape. The cut of the shoulders is less exaggerated and skirts are fuller. The volume is often achieved by cleverly-cut panels creating a wide A-line rather than a gathered waist. Underneath, brassieres and sturdy girdles nip in the waist to create the right figure.
Inspired perhaps by the creative surge provided by the Festival of Britain in 1951, women’s and children’s wear is highly decorated with bold print designs and elaborate co-responding detailing around cuffs, collars and pockets.
Men’s leisure wear begins to increase as decorated cardigans and sweaters are introduced for casual occasions, although the models for the heavy work wear continue to wear ties and flat caps with their dungarees.
The 1950s sees the last of the ranges of children’s wear and toys that are ‘Just like Mummy’ or ‘Just like Daddy’. Children begin to be described as individuals and attend occasions of their own as party frocks make an appearance next to school wear.
Click here for a poem about the fashions of the 1950s, created by Brendan Hawthorne and members of Worcestershire Association of Carers.
Film of a 1950s fashion show produced by Second Hand Rose for our Heritage Open Day event at the Commandery, Worcester, on 10 September 2011