Housewife Couture: Dior’s Fantasy Was Not the Reality

DiorNewHousewife I love looking at my mother's photos of her in the 1950s, when she was a newlywed, albeit pre-children. In the one I'm looking at now, her hair is pulled back in an elegant chignon. At her neck is the requisite  strand of pearls. She wears fitted below-the-knee dress.

When at play, photos show her in Capri pants and crisp sleeveless blouses.

She had the figure to do it all justice.

She was a Dior housewife.

When the war ended, Rosie the Riveter gave her factory gig back to the man in her life so that he could bring him the bacon, and she could fry it up — obviously not in the couture concoction seen here.

That's okay. Labeled "The New Look" by the media, Christian Dior was selling a wonderful dream that went hand-in-glove with the white picket fence every woman supposedly craved: fitted jacket, flared skirt, chapeau perched at an appealing angle…

And the eyes of every man in sight mesmerized by the vision of you.

DiorNewLook2 It helped that the end of war meant freedom for fabrics, too, to be used in clothes that made women—well, more womanly. Out with the overalls, in with crepe or chiffon cocktail dresses, shirtwaist dresses, and the hostess apron.

Martinis and hors d'oeuvres, anyone?

Now, five decades later, I — and the rest of my restless generation — live for comfort, not luxury. This means yoga pants and hoodies. For an evening out, I up the ante to jeans, a nice top, and slouchy boots.

Obviously, I (or my wardrobe) lack my mother's elegance.

Do I blame myself, or the fashion gods?

Neither. To paraphrase Trollope, it's the way we live now.

I'll have what she's having…and make mine a double,


SecretLives400  Josie' s Next Book: Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives

Simon & Schuster/Downtown Press

(ISBN: 9781439173176)

Look for it in bookstores June 1, 2010

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