1948 Fashion and Vintage Clothing
After the major 1947 revolution in the silhouette, 1948 naturally saw the evolution and adaptation of the "New Look" into beautiful, wearable clothes. The exaggerated full skirt evolved into a modified flare worn 12 to 13 inches from the floor. Back interest, or the "windblown" silhouette, was the new note in skirts early in 1948—either back-flared, back-pleated, or back-draped. Shoulders were more natural but still padded slightly with rounded pads. The waistline continued small and well-defined, but women for-got the waist-cinching corselets of the year before.
However, 1948 added two fashions of a revolutionary nature. The first was the turning from ply yarn or soft crepes, which had ruled for al-most thirty years as the basic dress fabric, to crisp, stiff fabrics. Taffeta became the new basic fabric of the year. Faille, which had already been accepted, grew in fashion status, along with other crisp fabrics, such as slipper satin, moire, and jacquards. Shantung in rayon or pure silk became the year-round classic fabric. Surah, a twill made either of pure silk or rayon, was revived in the spring as another stiff fabric. Stiff velvets and brocades entered the winter scene. A similar fabric change occurred for coats and suits. Instead of casual melton or suede wools for coats, smooth broadcloth was established as the new basic coating. Though the popular gabardines and men's-wear worsted suitings still prevailed, broadcloth was introduced as the smart high-fashion suiting.
Further fabric news in 1948 was the exciting return of tweeds in lightweight versions for town or country coats, suits, and skirts. Iridescent fabrics were another big fashion, seen in cottons, wools, and rayons. The rise of cotton to greater popularity was another manifestation of the crisp-fabric fashion. Old-fashioned calicoes, taffetarized poplins, iridescent cottons, and cottons woven with non-tarnishable gold Lurex thread were favorites.
The second revolution was in coiffures, from the upswept coiffure for women and from the long bob for girls and young women to the short head-capping hairdo for all—adopted unanimously by college girls, young women, and older women.
Fashion inspiration was drawn mainly from the Victorian period, especially the late-Victorian (188o to 1900). It was evident both in the silhouette and in the elaboration of clothes with braids, ball-fringe, beading, and other Victorian touches. These were used on everything from sports clothes to evening gowns. The August 1948 Paris haute couture openings, spearheaded by Dior, the outstanding Paris dressmaker of the sea-son, emphasized and accelerated three other trends which had already begun in America: The Empire, the Far Eastern, and the Modern. The Empire was immediately translated into winter coats, dresses, and hats. The Far Eastern influence was seen in evening fashions and in casual resort and beach clothes. The Modern trend, of which Dior was the major sponsor, was strongest; it in-spired very feminine dresses with alluring wide-open necklines and also inspired coats and suits.
Navy blue was the high-fashion color of the year, from early spring through summer into fall and winter. Fall's fabrics were so rich that color was secondary, but wine, green, gray, black, and brown predominated; gray was emphasized all year.
The costume ensemble, a dress with its own jacket or coat, became the smartest day-time costume of the year, appearing in a gamut of fabrics and styles. The single biggest dress fashion was the late-day or after-five dress, almost always in a stiff or crisp fabric, with low, wide-open neck-line, below-elbow sleeves, and full skirt eight to ten inches from the floor. The full-skirted petticoat dress was a spring fad, with attached petticoat or petticoat ruffle at the hem. A big dress fashion, that started in the January resort season in cotton and became the big summer fashion, was the bare-top sundress with cover-up jacket or stole. It was ubiquitous for summer; and in fall was the inspiration for a big after-five, bare-top dress and jacket ensemble fashion, in taffeta and stiff fabrics.
The long, flared-back coat was the principal coat fashion of the year, beginning with the Easter season: in gabardine and covert for spring, and in broadcloth with fur collar and cuffs for fall-winter. The cloth coat luxurious with fur was emphasized because there was no tax on fur-trimmed coats, while all-fur coats were still taxed 20 per cent.
A smart minority of fitted, full-skirted coats appeared in the spring; and by October the fitted coat was beginning to challenge the supremacy of the flared-back coat, especially in big cities. Costume coats in smart stiff faille, bengaline, taffeta, or slipper satin, mostly fitted, made a prophetic appearance in spring. Other accepted winter coat fashions were the year-around coat in gabardine or suede with detachable zip-in lining; the big volume coat; and the fur-lined coat.
Though it was a big dress year, suits were still a basic part of every woman's wardrobe. The full-skirted ballerina suit, carried over from fall into spring, was not well accepted, because most women wanted a more classic suit that could be worn for several years. So the slim, softly tailored suit followed, inspired by California styles. The box-jacket suit was also popular; and the compose suit of contrasting jacket and skirt was revived.
Casual fashions enjoyed a banner year. The casual dress took on new character via stiff fabrics, and so was worn for almost any occasion. Knitted dresses and suits returned to favor, as did suede coats, suits, and jackets.
Evening fashions hewed to the stiff-fabric line and took inspiration from the Victorian period. Necklines were low, many dresses strapless, bodices snug, and skirts full, either all around or at the back. The majority of evening dresses were floor-length, but a few were ankle-length.
Stemming from the dressy feminine trend, and Victorian-inspired, was a whole new fashion for "little" furs. Smart fashion was the stole in flat furs, especially mink, followed by little capes, pelerines, and tippets,
Fabric stoles also became a big fashion. College girls wore them to match skirts, especially. As the fall season advanced, stoles appeared in wools to match coats; and in velvets, laces, and other luxury fabrics for evening dresses.
Several big over-all accessory fashions must be noted. Gold kid casual shoes and also gold kid casual bags and belts for beach and informal wear appeared in the January resort season, and became almost a uniform for summer worn with cotton dresses. The second big accessory fashion was that of white accessories with gold accents for summer. Satin accessories were worn late in the summer with midseason satin dresses. For fall-winter, velvet accessories scored a moderate success.
The short hairdo was the key to the year's hat fashion—the small, close-fitting hat. For spring the smartest hat, born in Paris, was a shallow head-fitting "rooftop" hat, usually with veiling. The little straw bonnet with flowers and ribbons was the big volume spring hat. Although it was essentially a "no hat" summer, straw or felt "roof-tops," bonnets, or brimmed hats with veiling were worn. For fall and winter there was a variety of small shapes—cloche, pillbox, beret, calot, turban, or bonnet, with feathers the uniform trim. These were in felts, velours, and rich materials such as velvet.
The "Diamond Look" was the smart fashion in jewelry, for daytime as well as evening—real diamonds in real jewelry, rhinestones in costume jewelry. Pearl jewelry continued as a big popular fashion, the pearl bib necklace of several strands in spring giving way to chokers, dog collars, and long ropes of pearls in fall. Necklaces were the leading jewelry fashion, either rhinestone or pearl clog collars or pearl ropes knotted around the throat. Small Victorian-inspired pins were popular. Earrings continued to be a part of every woman's costume.
The longer, slimmer, more ladylike frame handbag superseded last year's box-bag and reigned throughout the year, mostly in pouch shapes. Suede was the smart medium throughout the year, although faille was very popular for spring and summer. A big summer fad was the straw or wicker basket bag.
Gloves, too, succumbed to the feminine, and went from classic slip-ons to more feminine types, with flared or ruffled cuffs. Sheer dark stockings continued in favor throughout the year—off: blacks, dark browns, taupes.
Most popular shoe of the year was the pump. Smartest shoe for day time was the opera pump with modified V-throat. This evolved into the shell pump or shell ankle-strap shoe for late-day and evening. The shell was cut very low all around with V-throat. Suede was the medium for day time; luxurious velvets, satins, and brocades for late-day and evening shoes.
After its revival in 1947, the petticoat continued through 1948 as a requisite under the full-skirted fashions. It was in taffeta, or for summer in crisp cottons.