Contemporary fashion changes seem to be falling into seven-year cycles. This rhythm of style changes was vividly illustrated during 1954, which saw the end of the seven-year epoch of full skirts and "tiny" waists below a prominent, pointed bosom and the launching of a straighter, easier and softer silhouette.
Beginning in the spring of 1954 and continuing in their fall collections, many designers in the United States relaxed waistlines, de-emphasized the bust and placed belts, sashes and drapery at the hip to give a new "long torso" effect. But it remained for Christian Dior, the French creator of the climactic New Look of 1947, to focus the style spotlight firmly on the next epoch in fashion. Dior presented what he called the H-line, a silhouette comparatively straight from shoulder to hip and crossed at the hip with a cuff or other accent. Dior's realignment of the figure came literally from the skin out; he designed the foundation garments which raised his mannequins' bust nearly two inches, banished the pointed look of previous years, made the diaphragm deep and not "nipped," and flattened the hipline.
The mood of 1954 fashion was one of subtle elegance, soft, rich, often brilliantly colored, but with a well-bred, subdued effect. Beauty and quality in fabric were highlighted.
The "costume look" dominated fashion. Coats with matched or blending dresses, jacket costumes and suits with specially designed overblouses were the rule. Many costumes were color-matched from the hat to the hemline.
The ensemble and the jacket dress costarred equally with suits in sporty fashion. Jackets were in varied lengths, with the shortest a bosom-high bolero, the longest the "skyscraper jacket," designed by Ben Zuckerman of the United States, and a forerunner of the long jacket suit presented later by French designers.
Coats were cut straight from the shoulder with the flare, if any, very low near the knee. Many coats were cut short in three-quarter and seven-eighths lengths. While the sweeping "tent" coat was out of fashion, there was a deep roominess at the top in all coats, and many with the "top of the tube" folded in to form a decorative neckline.
Clothes turned their backs with dash and daring. There was noticeable back-sweep in skirt lines. Some necklines rose in front modestly but dropped to almost nonexistence on evening dresses.
The jumper moved up to rival the blouse and skirt. Slacks were shorter and shorts were longer, reaching to the knees. Longer sweaters were worn over skirts and pants. Longer necklaces and the return of colored beads to rival pearls as the all-purpose jewelry style made costume jewelry heavier and more noticeable than for many years.
Hats remained small and uneven in outline, but began to rise to a point, dip to one side or shoot out at the back to give a pronounced design to the head silhouette. The little postage stamp blot gave way to hats with real meaning.
The year 1954 marked the beginning of interest in fur -another seven-year cycle. American sable, fox, mink and leopard were widely used as trimming and the fur industry began to show progress out of a period of depression.
There was a silken shimmer over everything, from silk-and-worsted dress fabrics and satin-back suitings to shining, thistle-down coatings. Fabric with a rich "fall" replaced the stiff, stand-alone taffetas. Tweed and silk satin frequently appeared together in a single costume. The nubby wool textures popular in 1953 were fined down into polished, fuzzy. downy or flaky surfaces, with angora, cashmere, velour, chinchilla and duvetyn important in 1954. A textured effect was often an illusion created by variegated color flecks in the weave. There were many bold woven patterns in tweed or brocade. Chiffon-weight fabrics were highly important, including sheer tweeds, thin wool jersey, chiffon broadcloth and mat silk jersey. Evening silks were so magnificent in quality and color that they seldom needed decoration.
Irish linen was silk's only rival with the top designers in the spring season. Modern methods made it crease resistant, and it was dyed in beautiful colors for all purposes, even formal evening clothes.
The so-called "miracle fibers" continued to make fashion news, but their use as outer fabric was rare in the collections of trendsetting designers. Orlon sweaters achieved pronounced popularity with young people. The non-tarnishable metallic fiber Lurex was woven into wool, silk, rayon and cotton fabrics to achieve sparkle.
Prints returned to fashion prominently for the first time in several years. Patterns appeared on such unfamiliar backgrounds as wool, cotton, pique, pongee and organdy as well as silk surah and cotton broadcloth
.A pageant of new colors beguiled many women away from basic black and neutrals. Daytime clothes mingled flecks of bright colors in tweeds and brushed coatings. Tinted whites from ivory to an almost-green called Celadon lighted up evening fashions, while beautiful clear blues, pinks and gem colorings in satin made radiant contrast. Bold, deep colors in paisley patterns, plaids, and striped woolens, strange new color combinations with an oriental or modernistic flavor were intriguing new notes. Equally important were the lovely bouquet colorings of the 18th century. Brown loomed very big as a basic color.
Peekaboo bodices and transparent hems, daring necklines made discreet by "censoring" bands of pastel silk or lace underneath, beruffled black lace corset-cover tops and back-swooshing colored net petticoat ruffles were among these.
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