Date: c. 1954
Fabric: Cotton bobbinet tulle
Brand: Dior Boutique
This corselet and petticoat were originally integrated into an outer overdress. The original design was crafted from a rayon poult tafetta, with an asymmetric bodice and full circle skirt. The design was likely originally sold at the London based Christian Dior boutique. It was commonplace for high end and couture dresses to be crafted with integrated underpinnings, as these foundations were integral to the intended garment shape.
Both corselet and petticoat are crafted from layers of cotton bobbinet tulle. This type of tulle was a popular choice for shapewear, as it is both lightweight and flexible, but sturdy enough to reshape the body. It is manufactured on the same machines as Leavers lace, with the hexagonal pattern giving the fabric its strength. The corselet is structured with vertically placed, fine steel bones, and the petticoat is given additional structure with the application of horsehair braid at the hem. The corselet fastens with a row of metal hooks and eyes through the centre back. Originally these foundations would have been stitched into the outer garments, and only a few broken threads remain to indicate this original placement.
Christian Dior was a trailblazer of post-World-War-Two fashion, launching his ‘Corolle’ and ‘Huit’ collections in 1947. These designs were quickly dubbed by the press as the ‘New Look’. The previous war years took a very economical approach to fashion, with many restrictions on clothing. Initially the ‘New Look’ was criticised, as it centred around the image of a corseted figure with sloping shoulders, a small waist and long, voluminous skirts. It required specialist foundation garments to achieve, as well as a great deal of fabric at a time of economic shortages. The collection ended up defining an entire era of fashion, with Dior emphasising the importance of foundation-wear to achieve the appropriate silhouette for outerwear.
From the collection of Karolina Laskowska