Coco Chanel once said: “Look for the woman in the dress. If there is no woman there is no dress.” Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But if you look back over the centuries, dresses were made irrespective of the women who wore them. In the 1920's everything changed. Inspired by Poiret, Chanel took ownership of the new liberated silhouette and ran with it. In the aftermath of WWI all naivety was lost and sexual ambiguity was embraced: hobble skirts and wide-brimmed hats were slowing women down. Coco welcomed in the leg-flicking flapper age with her shortened skirts, cropped hair, Breton stripes and sailor pants.
In 1947, Dior launched his “New Look” at his salon at 30 Avenue Montaigne in Paris. If Chanel’s designs were all about freeing women from gender constraints, Dior’s shapely silhouette keenly cinched women back into familiar feminine lines after WWII. Full skirts, nipped in waists and brimmed hats were back. Corsets and petticoats made a triumphant return. “I have designed flower women”, Dior famously declared at the time. “Mr Dior, we abhor dresses to the floor,” came the sharp response from some angry women with placards. These protests wouldn’t prevent Dior’s silhouette dominating the 1950s, however.