sewing, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Gown of the Year

As the fashion industry began to hit its stride after World War II, new fashions began to be seen. Dior’s New Look, of course, was one. Dresses began to be made with voluminous amounts of fabric that weren’t allowed during wartime rationing. In New York, a contest for “Gown of the Year” was held.

14 designers were asked to submit their designs, and they were worn by socialites at the ball. The jury was all men (!), and included Basil Rathbone, Richard Aldrick (a producer), and singer Morton Downey. The winner? Jean Desses, who had not only never been to the US before, but had never exhibited a dress here.

The ball gowns were worth a total of $7650 and were designed by Sophie, Jo Copeland, Christian Dior (New York), Henri Bendel, Ceil Chapman, Mme. Garnett, Desses, Carrie Munn, Lilly Dache (who I didn’t realize designed dresses, as she was known for hats), Oleg Cassini, Charles James, Omar Kiam, Nettie Rosenstein, and Adrian. Shown here (designers as listed above, from left to right).

The winning gown, with Msr. Desses on the right.:

Photo: Life Magazine.

The Christian Dior, New York dress, constructed 80 yards of lace and tulle just in the skirt:

Photo: Life Magazine

The Carrie Munn design. Is that skirt quilted?

Photo: Life Magazine.

The (fantastic) Adrian dress:

Photo: Life Magazine.

No word on the criteria for design or judging, other than it needed to be considered as Gown of the Year. I don’t know if they continued this contest yearly, or if it was just to jumpstart the fashion industry, but I’d love to see something like this today. I doubt we’d see it, as designing for a contest is probably too cost prohibitive for today’s fashion houses, but it sure would be interesting to see. With some female judges this time, please?

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