How did Modernism influence the Fashion world? Arthur Erikson, an architect, described it as “Modernism released us from the constraints of everything that had gone before with a euphoric sense of freedom.”[1]

Modernism began in the late 19th century to the mid-20th century particularly following the years after First World War, it was described as a new way of expression and it was a drastic break from the past. During this time it was where artist and designers began to use experimentation in their work. Modernism was important because it was a movement that predicted the future and throw away the old. Modernism is applied in the fashion world because fashion in itself is a way to find new trends and creations to express new design. The French fashion designer, Christian Dior is a great example to this. Christian Dior revolutionised the fashion industry because his work post war had changed the way how women would dress. His design was bold and different that he managed to make his empire become and inspiration and it is still regarded as important fashion house today.

The zemire evening ensemble at the V and A will be one of the interesting fashion pieces to be seen at the museum. Located at the fashion section, these pieces created by the French designer, Christian Dior, has changed and defined what fashion really is.

It was in 1947 that Dior had launched his couture collection, which was called ‘The New Look’ by then Harper’s Bazaar editor Carmel Snow who coined the name, which later stuck. Once the line came out it became a scandal. It really has divided women thoughts about these new designs because it was surely a contrast to the overalls and utility clothing at wartime Europe. Christian Dior called it the corolla line because how the skirts looked exploded outwards from the thinnest of waist just like the flower petals. As the second world war affected much of Europe, knowing that there is a shortage of material Dior deliberately used many meters of fabric to create huge dresses to mock the make do policy that was in force amongst the nation.

Lady Agota Sekers, who was the wife of a British textile manufacturer, commissioned the Zemire evening ensemble. Although it was created in Paris and made in grey satin, Lady Sekers chosen to get it made in scarlet Cellulose acetate and was made in Sekers, a leading fabric manufacturer during the 1950s. The under dressing is made in silk and net. Because the Second World War has ended and fabric was really limited, every women and girls were given a book called make do and mend, Christian Dior wanted to go against this, he was inspired by the hourglass silhouette of the nineteenth century and used many meters of fabric to create large skirts that were voluptuous. The idea behind this was, as it was a dark period of history, Dior wanted women to dream of optimism through the clothing he makes. Nineteenth century was a time where middle and upper class women led a highly pampered lives, The New Look collection was heavily based on this concept.

The original grey version of Zemire dress was one of the selections presented to Princess Margaret at Blenheim Palace in 1954. Zemire ensemble was once lost and the only known evidences of this dress was through photographs until it was discovered by the V and A. There is no examples of the designs had ever survived.

The new look collection was consider a game changer in fashion that revolutionised how women would dressed. Post war, women longed to wear more feminine clothing then a uniform, so Dior designed a collection that showcased dresses that showed a woman’s Silhouette, it was what women wanted after many years of harshness and suffering from the war. His work suggested that it was influence of the period, Belle Époque (Beautiful Era) that dates back to 1871 – 1914 just before the First World War broke out. Dior was inspired by what his mother used to wear in 1900s with the tiny waist, long shirts, fabric that was beautifully made. Bring back femininity with a political agenda, women were mobilised during the war to work while the men were sent off to fight.

Bibliography & Reference:

[1] Arthur Erickson’s McGill University School of Architecture in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on 21 October 2000

100 Ideas That Changed Fashion, Harriet Worsley, Laurence King Publishing, 2012.

Zemire ensemble by Dior , V&A:


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