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Costume Since 1945 Historical Dress from Couture to Street Style, 2nd Edition by Deirdre Clancy Book

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Costume Since 1945 Historical Dress from Couture to Street Style, 2nd Edition by Deirdre Clancy Book Read Online And Epub File Download

Overview: Since the mid-20th century fashion has undergone phenomenal change at a rapid pace in the context of unprecedented social, political and cultural upheaval. This fully updated and expanded second edition of Costume Since 1945 brings this period to life through accessible, lively text and over 100 illustrations.

From the austerity of the utility years to punk and protest to 21st century fast fashion and vintage style, the volume captures changes the mood and style of each era across street fashion, sportswear, formal wear from suits to couture gowns, underwear and nightclothes. Based on a wide range of sources, the author's illustrations offer engaging insights on fashion history as well as design inspiration.

Written for students and scholars of costume design and fashion history, practitioners and anyone interested in historical dress, this book provides a unique perspective on fashion from a renowned international costume designer. 

Costume Since 1945 Historical Dress from Couture to Street Style, 2nd Edition by Deirdre Clancy Book Read Online And Epub File Download More Ebooks Every Category For Go Ebooks Libaray Online Website.

Costume Since 1945 Historical Dress from Couture to Street Style, 2nd Edition by Deirdre Clancy Book Read Online Chapter One


Four years before the end of the war in 1945 Britain had introduced the Utility Scheme to ensure that the few available resources would be used economically to produce good clothes. Couturiers such as Hardy Amies and Molyneux chose prototypes that conformed to government regulations limiting the amount of material for each garment, the quality of the fabric, and the length and fullness of the skirt. In consequence, great attention was paid to details such as the colour of the piping, a carefully positioned pleat, topped by a mad little hat trimmed with unrationed milliner’s veiling. Everyone was encouraged to ‘make do and mend’, and younger brothers and sisters were dressed entirely in ‘hand-me-downs’.

In the United States, where there were far fewer constraints, fashion developed further along prewar lines. Full skirts swirled out from small gathered waists with fitted bodices, worn with nylon stockings, high-heeled shoes in bright leather, straw hats and matching gloves. Such clothes, so cheerful and so new, were the envy of Europe.

When clothes rationing in England failed to be relaxed in line with postwar expectations, the public mood changed to one of impatience and resentment. Matters were made worse by regulations in the late 1940s that allowed British designer fashions to be exported, but forbade their distribution in England. Economist and broadcaster Louis Stanley called the situation the ‘second Battle of Britain’ and said, ‘It is bad enough when such goods do not exist, but to learn that they are being produced, the best this country can make, but not for domestic consumption is a bitter pill.’ Women were further exasperated by illustrations in the press showing exotic fashions in Paris, Brussels, New York, Stockholm, even Germany.

The long-term effect of the war years on the garment industry was to establish the concept of mass production. The experience gained from the endless manufacture of uniforms forced the ready-to-wear industry to develop stable patterns of manufacture and distribution that underpin the trade to this day. It is salutary to remember that the clothing industry is the third largest industry in the western world in terms of employment and turnover.

New York designers became far more independent as a result of the wartime severing of transatlantic communications. No longer relying on Paris for inspiration, and led by the brilliant Claire McCardell, they invented the American Look. Sporty, relaxed, comfortable, with clean functional lines as a clear expression of lifestyle, these deceptively simple designs became instant classics, and remain effective, inspiring and fashionable to this day.

As yet, no postwar look had evolved, though there were signs, as James Laver, one of the most clear-headed writers on clothes fashion, commented: ‘Fashion has reached one of those turning points in history when everything may happen just because anything may happen to the world.’

What happened was brought into focus on 12 February 1947 in the Paris salon of Christian Dior. For a decade the silhouette of women had remained unchanged. Rationing and the privations of war had imposed a straight, abbreviated, square-shouldered shape, and any deviation was seen as unpatriotic extravagance. It is impossible to over-estimate the impact of Dior’s momentous collection. His tall, slim house models must have looked like creatures from another planet. The mannequins had soft natural shoulders, a wasp waist, a bosom subtly padded for a more feminine shape and rounded hips that were emphasized by shells of cambric or taffeta stitched into the lining. The full skirt exploded into pleats from under the peplum of the jacket or was stitched flat over the hips, and for daytime stopped twelve inches from the floor to reveal sheer stockings and delicate high-heeled shoes. These swirling skirts could have 15 to 25, even 30 yards (12–25 m) of fabric, in itself a sinful extravagance to women who for years had made do with 2½ yards of 36-inch wide utility tweed.

The governments of both the UK and US did their best to dissuade women from wearing the New Look, backed up, oddly, by some reactionary ladies in Texas and Atlanta who formed The Little Below the Knee Club on the grounds that it was unpatriotic and unemancipated; but on this issue women were rebellious and unmoved. The shops on both sides of the Atlantic were soon full of the new styles and any manufacturer who had the misfortune to have over-stocked with forties man-tailored suits lost a great deal of money, for nobody wanted them.

Men didn’t have fashion in the late forties – they just had clothes, in many instances the same civilian garments that had seen them through their off-duty moments during the war, or that utilitarian garment the demob (or demobilization) suit issued to ex-service personnel. Men wore dark, two- or three-piece suits to the office and a tweed sports jacket and flannel trousers at weekends. Young people wore scaled down versions of their parents’ fashions. The teenager was not invented until early in the following decade in the US.

Post-War Dress in Europe and the US

1–5 This group is taken from a street party to celebrate the end of the war in 1945. The people are working-class Londoners, for whom fashion, as distinct from clothing, was an unaffordable luxury, even assuming they had sufficient coupons.

1 Young boy. Shorts suit in school serge or flannel. English and European boys usually wore shorts till puberty – or until they reached a certain height. Frozen blue knees and wrinkled knee-socks were common until the advent of elasticated tops to the socks in the late fifties. The shirt is worn open at the neck, over the jacket collar – in a way that would have been disapproved of by the upper classes. The jacket is cut in the style common to all men from the forties onwards – three buttons, small shoulder pads; and the shoes, polished for the occasion, are ordinary laced Oxfords. The outfit is completed with a home-knitted V-neck jumper.

2 The man’s lapels and roomy trousers suggest a pre-war suit. The V-neck pullover is endearingly tucked into the trousers, still braced and with turn-ups. The only concession to modernity is a cheery tie, wide and brightly patterned in a ‘cubist’ style.

3 This lady is something of an archetype. She wears a printed blouse and an old wool skirt. The overall in much washed printed cotton is an almost permanent fixture. The Victory tea was for the children, after all, and washing the dishes had to be done by hand. She wears her good cloth coat, which might have been purchased new, but was more likely bought second-hand in one of the many street markets. Darned rayon stockings and sensible shoes complete her outfit.

4 Her friend looks rather more en fête. The beret and the jaunty checks on her tweed coat are stylish, and she has taken her apron off. Otherwise the short-sleeved jumper and skirt are almost a uniform.

5 The girl, aged perhaps fourteen, is wearing a small adult’s utility suit in its most basic form, with check open-neck blouse, white socks and laced shoes.

6 and 7 Leisure-wear was a very new and American concept. These examples are from the Sears Catalog, the bible of middle America. She wears dungarees over a neat print shirt, and wedge-heeled shoes. The garden trowel shows that such practical clothes in washable fabrics were to be worn for suitable feminine hobbies rather than display, but such garments would win the day in time. He wears a slubbed cotton two-piece. The shirt is cut straight, so that it can be worn outside the ‘pants’ (American for trousers) as a cool summer suit.

8 It is difficult to believe that this lady’s outfit belongs to the same period as the others on this page. This is Dior’s 1947 New Look. The corseted waist, natural shoulders and long draped skirt are for conspicuous display only.

9 An excellent example of a New Look suit modified for real people. In 1948–9 almost every young woman of any means at all would have possessed such an outfit for formal day wear. The neat jacket with set tailored sleeves and nipped-in waist came in all sorts of variations on the same basic shape. The full gored skirt would be about 30 cm (10–12 in) off the ground. The colour and style of the carefully matched accessories could vary. The whole effect was demure and lady-like.

Formal Dress: An English Wedding, 1949

1 Nanny. I do wonder how many people on this page are wearing clothes bought or made especially for them. Nanny’s good coat was made for a much taller woman, see the hand-sewn hemline. She wears this classically tailored overcoat in sensible dark brown or grey, with a round-necked, possibly hand-knitted, jumper. The low-heeled shoes are enlivened by fringed tongues, which together with the straw loops on her hat are the only touches of frivolity on this rather grim outfit.

2 A classic image of British middle-class childhood, complete with velvet-collared Harris tweed coat, white ankle socks and Start-Rite strapped shoes.

3 Another lady whose smart cream coat was too long and has been turned up. Her hat is stylish too, a kind of enlarged beret with a fringe on.

4 The boy’s mother. It is difficult to see, given her somewhat depressing clothes that this actually very pretty woman is still under thirty. I know the fur coat belonged to her mother, and I suspect the toque ornamented with peculiar feather bits did as well.

5 The groom is of an age and class where he could have owned his morning coat and striped trousers. They fit very well for hired ones. The suit is completely traditional down to the pearl-grey waistcoat (US vest) and carnation buttonhole.

6 The bride has a cream satin dress with a ‘sweetheart’ neckline, long tight sleeves, a full-flared and gathered skirt and the family veil held on by a pearl bead tiara.

Formal Dress: International Occasion Wear

1 A tunic dress from the Sears Catalog 1947/8, decorated unnervingly with nail heads. The dress was made in the signature fabric of the forties, rayon crepe, in black, of course, beige or dark moss green. Sears suggest it is an ideal frock for the fuller figure.

2 Luncheon dress by Digby Morton for Lachasse in caramel and white houndstooth check suiting. Designed in March 1947, it was destined to languish in the back of the wardrobe, overtaken by the New Look. If you could afford clothes like this you would naturally wear only the latest fashion.

3 The Hollywood version: the producer’s wife at a première. This draped, sparkly dress was over a boned foundation and worn with a smart evening jacket made from Chinese silk brocade. The silver sandals and lots of jewellery complete the effect.

4 Seriously good taste from Balmain, who would have thought Mrs Producer vulgar. A beautifully fitted brocade jacket, mink trimmed, worn with a grand floor-sweeping satin skirt.

5 A bit of an oddity by Maggie Rouff for Miss Europe. Duchesse satin with beading and an unconvincing bustle. Mae West goes to Paris, perhaps?

Celebrities: Including David Niven and Rita Hayworth

1 In 1945, iconic British actress Celia Johnson received lasting popular success and an Academy Award nomination for her part in the film ‘Brief Encounter’ in which she heroically decided not to have an affaire with the attractive character played by Trevor Howard, after meeting him at the train station. Station waiting rooms gained an air of potential romance that, despite the strong tea and stale sandwiches, they never quite lost. Miss Johnson wears a severely tailored air-force blue two piece suit, a cap inspired by the military version designed by Norman Hartnell, sensible shoes and a neat rayon blouse – an outfit that was almost a uniform for middle class ladies at the end of the war.

2 Rita Hayworth was an American dancer and film actress who achieved fame during the 1940s as Gilda in the film of the same name, which was made in 1946. The black satin dress worn for a provocative strip scene, where all she removed were her long evening gloves, was structured within an inch of its life! Designer Jean Louis invented a cast plastic corset to enhance Hayworth’s spectacular hour-glass figure while hiding the signs of her pregnancy. It must have been very uncomfortable.

3 David Niven starred in the 1946 Powell and Pressburger film, A Matter of Life and Death, just after he had returned to acting from active war service in the Rifle Brigade, where he had risen to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. In the film, Niven plays the part of an airman, Squadron-Leader Peter Carter, who is shot down over the English Channel and, landing in the sea, mistakes the fog for a prelude to the afterlife. Niven wears the field uniform of the RAF: a dark blue dungaree suit, or all-in-one, with flying boots and a sleeveless sheepskin flying jacket. He sports the classic RAF moustache that became the actor’s trademark, and a blue spotted foulard cravat.

4 Mickey Rooney arrives at Southampton Docks having travelled from the US on the Queen Mary in 1948 for an engagement in London. He keeps warm against the British weather in an over-long, belted trench coat, Trilby hat and warm woollen gloves.

5 The incomparable Bette Davis stars as the tempestuous fading star Margot Channing in the 1950 film, All About Eve. This famous and unusual brown velvet, fur edged costume was designed by eight times Oscar winning designer Edith Head. Apparently the neckline was too wide when it arrived so Davis solved the problem by slipping the dress down to reveal her shoulders. Much sexier that way.

The New Look by Christian Dior 1947

VE Day 1945. Women and children in England at the end of World War II in Europe

Casual, Sport and Leisurewear

1 Playsuit – an open-necked shirt and neatly pressed tailored, flared shorts worn with wedgy espadrilles. Such simple open-air clothes were mostly American. English women were still deprived and rationed, so wasting precious coupons on new sports kit was not really an option.

2 Informal riding clothes – tweed hacking jacket, twill jodhpurs, brown leather jodhpur boots, soft shirt and tie. A felt hat or velvet cap could be worn for hacking, or a headscarf if preferred. These clothes were very well made in hard-wearing materials, so most English women could wear their pre-war kit and still look acceptably well turned out.

3 Sunsuit or swimsuit – a bra top with a tiny flared skirt over matching built-in knickers. Note the daringly bared midriff.

4 Tennis dress – in this instance a crisp white shirt tucked into a pair of white pleated shorts or a divided skirt. This style of garment became the standard girls’ school games uniform; made in school colours of navy, maroon or brown and worn a regulation 15 cm (6 ins) above the knee, with an aertex shirt. The shorts were not at all flattering to the bulgier adolescent form and the aertex shirts shrank alarmingly, however huge they were to begin with.

5 Casual wear – a pair of rolled up white drill jeans could be worn with a plaid lumberjack shirt or, as here, with a striped yachting jersey. Jeans did not become really popular in the UK until the sixties.

Underwear and Accessories

1 and 2 A spun-rayon nightdress and a classic wool flannel dressing gown (US robe) in women’s sizes. The edges are neatly piped in a contrasting colour.

3 Bra and girdle made of rayon satin and marquisette with elastic panels.

4 Popular late-forties shoe – high heels, sling back, peep toe, platform sole. Assorted sensible colours and bow detail.

5 Sensible shoes of a shape that would continue to be manufactured for decades, ending up as extra-wide fittings for the mature customer.

6 Modified wedgy sandal, for the summer.

7 One of an assortment of popular ‘young’ hat shapes with rolled brims – somewhat doughnut-like in shape.

8 Little boater.

9 A bonnet with rouleau trim.

10 and 11 Gloves, in leather, suede or cotton, were obligatory on most smart occasions. The classic handbag (US purse) and a more adventurous bucket bag were either in leather or, more frequently, leatherette.


1 English boys would have killed for such splendid clothes! Denim dungarees and an open-necked shirt, cotton or plaid, won hands down over grey shorts and school shirts. English parents, perhaps in revenge for the privations of rationing, seemed to delight in having their adolescent offspring look as unattractive as possible.

2 Hawaiian print sports shirt worn with woollen swimming trunks. Cotton boxer shorts rapidly became more popular, for obvious reasons. Note the belt, much needed if the weight of the wet wool was not to part the wearer from his swimsuit.

3 This is the sort of coordinated leisure wear that so horrified the English gent. ‘Hollywood’ tailored jacket in light wool, decorated with chocolate brown suede or Melton. A very bold tie and soft slacks completed the outfit.

4 The windcheater was a sort of early anorak made popular by President Eisenhower. Evolved from the battledress blouson jacket, it was much worn by golfers and film technicians as it was a comfortable alternative to the sports jacket, and was usually made in proofed cotton, or brown suede if you worked on the front end of a movie camera. Slacks, pullover, shirt, hat and shoes came as standard.

5 English gentleman’s athletic clothing. An old college blazer and cravat was probably the only strong colour permitted (for instance the shrimp pink worn by members of the Leander Rowing Club). These would be worn with a soft cream Viyella shirt and baggy shorts in khaki cotton. Smarter sporting events would warrant whites for tennis, or white flannel ‘bags’ – loosely cut trousers – for cricket and rowing.

6 The classic English city gent, emulated by solicitors and bank managers. Black bowler hat, three-piece dark suit or black jacket and waistcoat with pinstriped trousers, worn with a white or finely striped shirt with semi-stiff detachable collar, and a silk regimental or club tie in subdued colours. Black Oxford shoes and rolled umbrella complete the image.

7 The city gent off duty and the ‘uniform’ of the university-educated professional. A tweed sports jacket, its life extended by leather elbow patches, a soft-collared shirt often in a faint check, wool tie, trousers of grey flannel or cavalry twill, wool socks, laced brogues usually of brown leather, sometimes daringly of suede (known disparagingly as ‘cad’s creepers’ or ‘brothel creepers’). The outer garments were often made to measure for those who could afford it and, given the indestructible nature of the fabrics used, lasted for generations. Indeed the extreme age of a favourite sports coat was a source of subtle pride, especially since obvious newness was to be avoided lest the wearer be thought ‘nouveau’ or ‘arriviste’.


1 and 2 Zoot suits were an extraordinary expression of rebellion against the sober garments of the 1940s. They used yards of expensive, impractical fabric and were a defiantly ostentatious statement of cultural identity by the young black American male. They were also adopted by ambitious Mexican Americans. Unfortunately for this flamboyant, entertaining style, cloth rationing rendered such extravagance to be considered un-American, even illegal. Drunken, off-duty marines felt it their patriotic duty to attack Zoot suiters – beating them up and destroying their suits.

The style re-emerged in Colombia during the 1950s as a vigorous nightclub fashion, not unconnected with jazz and the consumption of marijuana.

3 The lady wears a halter-necked dance dress in white cloque.


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