Design House: House of Dior (French, founded 1947)

Designer: Christian Dior (French, Granville 1905–1957 Montecatini)

Date: spring/summer 1947

Culture: French

Medium: silk

Dimensions: Length at CB: 17 1/2 in. (44.5 cm)

Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. John Chambers Hughes, 1958

Accession Number: C.I.58.34.30


Christian Dior's "Bar" suit is the iconic New Look ensemble, featuring as it does the sloped shoulders, articulated bust, nipped waist, and padded hips. This silhouette required myriad underpinnings, which in the case of Dior's designs were built in rather than purchased separately. A repudiation of the styles of the 1920s and '30s, it was also clearly indebted to the styles and body-shapers of the late nineteenth century. Although it would seem that the heavily structured silhouette of the 1950s would allow for some relaxation of the management of the body underneath, fashion magazines dictated strict diet and control. In 1949, Vogue introduced "Diet X," a 750-calorie-a-day regime to be followed for ten days, and published several versions of it in the 1950s. A 1953 editorial in Harper's Bazaar noted that people who failed to maintain a good figure "don't have a good enough opinion of themselves to want to look their best." This emphasis on internal control may be the reason that the nineteenth-century carapace of undergarments was not revived along with its silhouette. The waist cinchers that were introduced as an underpinning in the 1950s were barely four inches wide. The Merry Widow corset of the 1950s simply did not impose the force of its nineteenth-century ancestor. Much of the sportswear of the 1950s followed Dior's line without the benefit of any understructure other than brassieres and elastic girdles.
In 1947, Christian Dior presented a collection of wasp-waisted and hip-padded designs. The American press immediately dubbed it the "New Look." The "Bar" suit was considered the most iconic model in the collection, manifesting all the attributes of Dior's dramatic atavism. Although Dior created many notched collars, he was a fervent advocate of shawl collars and curved necklines. Arguably, the shawl collar plays effectively with the curvaceous forms Dior articulated at the shoulders and hips. The full pleated calf-length skirt, of black wool, is a replica of the original skirt of the suit. Marc Bohan ordered it made up in the Dior workroom to complete the suit for The Costume Institute Collections.