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What fashion looked like in Vogue in 1946, the year the costume institutes were founded




Ms. Stanley Grafton Mortimer Jr. [Babe Paley] wears the palest blue with black. The novelty of this blue is the sudden character it has, with black … no longer candy pastel, but a color that works like a flattering light. The dress, matte black rayon jersey; the pale yoke, as simple as a sweater. Mrs. Mortimer adds a pearl necklace, a wonderful bustle of bracelets. The dress is a design by Traina-Norell. Vogue

Photographed by Horst P. Horst, Vogue, March 1, 1946

It’s important to remember that the Costume Institute is a living archive, a place where fashion history is preserved and where designers come to be inspired. In 1946, the year of the foundation of the institutes, the pages of Vogue were filled with talents whose work is now part of the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Arts.

Among the stars of 1946 were many female designers, including Claire McCardell, Ceil Chapman, Valentina and Clare Potter. On the other side of the gender divide, BH Wragge was revered for its use of beautiful, elegantly tailored fabrics, and Norman Norell was making a name for himself under the Traina-Norell label by then.

Next week, the work of a new generation of local talent will be set against the backdrop of the longer thread of American fashion in the Costume Institute’s new exhibit, In America: A Lexicon of Fashion. With so much emphasis on US-born fashion, it won’t be surprising to see some of the prominent designers from 75 years ago referenced in the Spring 2022 collections. Familiarize yourself with some of them here.

This is the new navy blue, with new life and new light. The coat is authoritative, with a stiff, raised collar, entirely in brass; made without a buttonhole so it can be worn loose, loose but fitted near the center front. Wear it confidently, as Gene Tierney does with a contradictory touch of honey leather. Fleece Forstmann.

Photographed by John Rawlings, Vogue, March 1, 1946

Jamaican cotton beach dress; her nude bra is an engineering miracle. By Joset Walker. Vogue

Photographed by Serge Balkin, Vogue, December 1, 1946




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