This Day In History: February 12

Changing the day will navigate the page to that given day in history. You can navigate days by using left and right arrows

On February 12, 1947, as Europe continues to recover from the devastation of World War II, French fashion designer Christian Dior launches his first collection: the “New Look.” For some, its lavish sense of exaggerated femininity marked a welcome departure from wartime austerity. For others, it prompted harsh backlash.

With features like rounded shoulders, a fitted jacket with a cinched waist and a voluminous, calf-length skirt, Dior’s New Look celebrated feminine curves—a far cry from the war era’s drab, boxy and severe styling. “I turned them into flowers, with soft shoulders, blooming bosoms, waists slim as vine stems, and skirts opening up like blossoms,” Dior said.

But for many Europeans still living with the privation of postwar food, energy and fabric rationing, Dior’s styles—which used yards and yards of fabric for a single dress—read as offensively wasteful. Some women wearing New Look frocks were chased in the streets and attacked. Critics labeled the designs excessive and unpatriotic. American protesters who saw his designs as an unwelcome return to restrictive, grandmotherly fashions picketed his shows with banners reading, “Mr. Dior, we abhor dresses to the floor.”

Another French designer, Coco Chanel, offered this criticism about Dior: “Dior doesn’t dress women. He upholsters them!”

Still, Dior’s elegant designs became the signature silhouette for well-dressed women from the late 1940s through the 1950s. In particular, the New Look’s iconic Bar Jacket became a must-have item in numerous Dior Haute Couture collections for years to come. As privations eased, many who had snubbed Dior's excess came around, as fashion magazines embraced Dior and the legendary French designer became a global icon.

Also on This Day in History February | 12