Design House: House of Dior (French, founded 1947)
Designer: Christian Dior (French, Granville 1905–1957 Montecatini)
Date: fall/winter 1952–53
Medium: cotton/rayon/acetate blend
Credit Line: Gift of Irene Stone, in memory of her daughter, Mrs. Ethel S. Greene, 1959
Accession Number: C.I.59.26.3a, b
Harper's Bazaar (September 1952) described "La Cigale" as built in "gray moiré, so heavy it looks like a pliant metal," while Vogue (September 1, 1952) called it "a masterpiece of construction and execution." In 1952, what has been called the Dior slouch was placed inside a severe International Style edifice. The devices customarily used to soften surface and silhouette in Dior are eschewed, and the dress becomes the housing of the fashionable posture now required by its apparent weight: the skirt is cantilevered at the hipbonehip forward, stomach in, shoulders down, and the back long and rounded. Dior employed shaped pattern pieces to mold the bodice to the body and likewise to allow for the dilation at the hips.
American periodicals continued to promote Parisian couture lines after World War II, but they also included American design images and the ready-to-wear lines of Paris in order to make their publications relevant to a wide economic range of American women. "La Cigale" has the underpinnings of couture, but with its standard moiré, long, fitted sleeve, and smooth bodice and skirt cut, a facade of this cocktail piece could easily be adapted for the department store. American designers like Anne Fogarty and Ceil Chapman emulated the "New Look" line for cocktail wear, but used less luxurious fabrics and trims. Dior, along with French contemporary Jacques Fath and milliners Lilly Daché and John Fredericks, quickly saw the advantages of promoting cocktail clothing in the American ready-to-wear market, designing specifically for their more inexpensive lines: Dior New York, Jacques Fath for Joseph Halpert, Dachettes, and John Fredericks Charmers.