On 12 February 1947 Christian Dior launched his 'Corolle' line, the first collection from his recently opened fashion house. Instantly nicknamed the 'New Look', it brought a luxury, femininity and grace to postwar fashion, and had a dramatic, transforming effect on the female silhouette. The 'New Look' would almost completely dominate the greater part of the next decade.
development of women's fashion from the comparatively early days of the 'New Look', when the square shoulders and masculine details of the 1940s still lingered, through the ultra-feminine and luxurious styles of the mid-1950s - clothes with gently softened shoulderlines, tiny corseted waists, roundly padded hips and long, swirling skirts only eleven inches above the ground- up to the straight, semi-fitted, knee-length 'sack' dress of the decade's end, which heralded Mary Quant's 'shifts' of the 1960s.
The glamour of films and film stars also has a profound effect on the 1950s woman, who wanted her every outfit to be suffused with elegance, sophistication and sex appeal.
Figure-hugging sweaters, as worn by Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell; Brigitte Bardot's black and white cotton gingham wedding dress, and the gamine look of Audrey Hepburn were all deeply influential.
During this period many new and easy-care fabrics were introduced, including Terylene, a man-made material which was crease-resistant but which could be permanenly pleated; Orlon, a wool-like fabric, usually machine knitted; crease-resistant Banlon and Acrilan; and Poplin, a strong, hardwearing mix of man-made fibres and cotton. All these fabrics encouraged new fashions: the slender 'pencil' skirt, which lasted throughout the period, varying only in length and trim; the 'wash-and-wear' sweater; the permanently pleated skirt and the 'drip-dry' shirt.
During the Second World War men's fashion had been relatively stationary and somewhat dull, dominated as it was by military uniform. Before the 1950s it had fallen into three main categories: elegant bespoke tailoring, cheap imitations of the latter and work clothes. The introduction of ready-to-wear, the development of mass production techniques and the new man-made fabrics gave it ne life, bringing to the man-in-the-street smart suits and sports jackets, and stylish trousers with permanent creases. Nevertheless, the development of men's fashion in this period remained slow.