Evening ensemble, Mainbocher

Evening ensemble, Mainbocher

Evening ensemble (dress and jacket)
Mainbocher (1891-1976)
1937
Paris
Silk crepe, embroidered with sequins (jacket)
Museum no. T.306-1974
Given by Vern Lambert

Couturier clothing like this was custom-made for each individual client, and was out of most women's reach. However, couture influenced the silhouette and style of more affordable fashions, and dressmakers everywhere followed its lead. The prevalent 1930s style was the bias cut. Bias cutting (where fabric is cut diagonally to the grain of the fabric), created garments that skimmed over the body's curves. The 1930s silhouette is therefore slinky and close-fitting and the line was simple and uncluttered, with few trimmings or accessories. Simple dresses were teamed with short capes, boleros or jacket, and sequins were a favourite way of adding glamour to an outfit.

This straight-cut jacket is similar to the one worn by the Duchess of Windsor (Mrs Wallis Simpson) in her engagement photographs taken by Sir Cecil Beaton (1904-1980). She wore it over a long white crêpe dress with a sequin sash matching the jacket (American Vogue magazine, 1 June 1937, pages 52-57, British Vogue, 9 June 1937, pages 54-56). Beaton's photographs of Mrs Simpson in her Mainbocher ensemble were particularly successful. Its stark, simple lines suited her elegant, uncluttered style.