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V&A


The Boutiques, Ready-to-Wear & Accessories

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Boutiques & Accessories

Small shops or boutiques situated on the ground floor of the couture houses became increasingly common. They sold a range of luxury goods such as cosmetics, jewellery, knitwear, accessories and what were called in Paris frivolités. Clients might call in at the boutique following a lengthy fitting to pick up an off-the-peg blouse or some perfume.

Eventually, some houses such as Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Cardin opened separate boutiques selling ready-to-wear designs for a growing youth market.

Exhibition Highlights

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Shoes - Roger Vivier

Dress & Petticoat - Pierre Balmain

Ready-to-Wear

The traditional focus of couture was the creation of high fashion garments for private clients. However, sales to department stores and wholesalers became increasingly important after the war. Buyers purchased fabric toiles and paper patterns, or even original models. These designs could only be copied a limited number of times.

Some designers created ready-to-wear collections specifically for the export market, using the mass-production and sizing methods developed in the USA. By 1948, a year after launching his house, Dior opened on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue. 'The dresses will be designed with one eye on US tastes and the other on the limitations of machine production,' wrote Time magazine on 16 August 1948.

Underwear

A couture garment usually included meticulously constructed undergarments. They were either integrated into the structure of the garment, or made separately.

In creating the New Look after the war, Dior used firm underpinnings such as girdles, under-wired bustiers, and tulle and horsehair petticoats. He placed extra padding on the hips and bust to ensure a smooth womanly figure.

As the 1950s progressed, foundation and support garments became increasingly sophisticated. Lightweight materials such as nylon and new stretch fabrics ensured greater comfort.

Exhibition Highlights

Select a link below to find out more about the exhibition highlights.

Dress & Petticoat - Pierre Balmain


Christian Dior label and perfume from an advertising feature in Vogue (French edition) March 1948.

Christian Dior label and perfume from an advertising feature in Vogue (French edition) March 1948.

Licensed paper patterns with label by Jacques Heim, Paris about 1956. V&A: unregistered collection.

Licensed paper patterns with label by Jacques Heim, Paris about 1956. V&A: unregistered collection.

Corsetted petticoat by Jacques Fath, Paris 1957. V&A: T.173A-1974, to fit under evening dress T.173-1974.

Corsetted petticoat by Jacques Fath, Paris 1957. V&A: T.173A-1974, to fit under evening dress T.173-1974.

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