"We have lounging pajamas [1934-35] by Jessie Franklin Turner, who is a well-known American designer, at least for this period when most people were looking to France for inspiration. A woman would not have worn these outside of the house. They're evolving out of the idea of the tea gown. They're beautiful silk chartreuse green-striped pants with a very short jacket and a beautiful striped red and yellow sash. It's so liquid and screaming modernity but also relaxation and freedom. This woman, she's in the intimacy of the home, but she's with men and it's perfectly fine. She's drinking and enjoying herself. This is the epitome of the new woman, totally at home in her clothes and her body."

"Fabric is woven with a warp and weft. That just cut and hanging straight [cutting on the grain] tends to fold and be a more stiff construction, obviously depending on the fiber itself. But when you cut on the bias, you're turning the fabric on the diagonal, which gives the fabric more flexibility to hug the curve of the body. [In the '20s and '30s] there's not a lot of understructure. In fact, you can't wear too much constructive understructure. It's about the fluidity of the fabrics. Then post-war it's about the fabric again, but it's all about structure and understructure, what is manipulating and controlling the fabric as opposed to letting it fall fluidly. There are a lot of understructures that are worn and can be purchased separately, the petticoats and the bras. Some of those controlling factors can be sewn into the structure as well, so there are layers of nets that can be built in, or boning comes back into the bodice, which really creates this distinct shape. So the designer is sculpting the material into a shape that is defining the body, rather than the body defining the fabric."

"When you get to the '50s, the dresses are looking back to these even 18th-century ideals of the feminine silhouette, the small waist, the full skirt that emphasizes the smallness of the waist, and of course the bust, just the hourglass silhouette, certainly goes back to earlier and more conservative views of women, but you have to see it in reaction to the restrictions of the war. It's not as corseted as it might look. We are going back to the woman is in the home. There is this very strong focus on the home. The woman stays in the home, and the man is mixing the drinks. In terms of the dresses themselves we see these really interesting ornate fabrics coming back too. The one I always think about is the Traina-Norell dress [c. 1949]. It's this beautiful, gleaming red dress that tends to call people from all directions. It's got an amazing wealth of fabric and that's seen in the cartridge pleats of the skirts and the fabric itself is a voided velvet. The red color itself, you could go straight back to Renaissance velvet and this idea of authority and royal connotations."

Read Greg Cook's blog at  gregcookland.com/journal.

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