KNOWN FOR THE "NEW LOOK" AND THE "NEW SILHOUETTE" RESPECTIVELY, Christian Dior and Cristóbal Balenciaga shared this particular day, January 21, as their birthday. Born ten years apart at the turn of the 20th century, the two designers became among the key influencers of women's fashion in the mid-1900s.
The "New Look" by French-born Christian Dior sparked a revolution in 1947 with its lavish lengths and generous use of material. Embodying the collection was Le Bar, or the "Bar" suit, which consisted of a glove-tight tailored morning coat in shantung, under whose full peplum extended a wool skirt with over 25 yards of fabric and multiple layers of petticoat. Le Bar, along with Dior's array of extravagant ensembles, celebrated the end of wartime fashion. Met with desire on both sides of the Atlantic, the New Look was, in the designer's own words, a way of giving back to women "an ideal of civilized happiness".
Contrasting with Dior's hourglass look were Cristóbal Balenciaga's architectural silhouettes. From boxy tunics, to the rounded tonneau line, to trapezoidal baby doll dresses, the Spanish couturier constructed shapes independent to the wearer's figure while still flattering the wearer and providing her incredible ease. Waists were raised, then dropped or removed completely, sleeves were cropped and hems were skewed, resulting in the equally graphic and graceful innovations that had him dubbed by Vogue as "the great leader in fashion; what Balenciaga does today, other designers will do tomorrow, or next year, by which time he will have moved on again."
CHRISTIAN DIOR AT 30 AVENUE MONTAIGNE AND DRESSES DEFINING THE "New Look":
Cristobal Balenciaga's various silhouettes AND A PORTRAIT OF THE DESIGNER:
Today, both designers' legacies continue to influence and inspire, with elements of Dior's New Look and Balenciaga's new silhouettes echoed and emulated in 21st-century garments. Conditions and motivations for dressing are very much changed now but the two contrasting themes endure; on the one hand, fashion restores the woman's taste for lightheartedness, and on the other, it encapsulates her subtle, ever-changing nuances.
From top: Le Bar by Christian Dior, Amphora dress and Ligne I dress by Cristóbal Balenciaga. Images from dior.com balenciaga.com and britannica.com