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Fashion Scandal of 1947 on the Champs Élysées

April 12, 2018

The year is 1947 and Paris is slowly recovering after the trauma of WWII. Most shops still lacked many basic products. Everything was rationed, even fabric, and no one even thought about using precious materials and supplies beyond what was necessary. But 1947 was the year chosen by a Parisian tailor who was as yet unknown, for the debut of his new collection. In this collection he presented a new image of a woman, that of a flower or as he called it “Femme Fleur”

On 12 February 1947, Christian Dior launched his first fashion collection for Spring/Summer of that year. The new collection has gone down in fashion history as the “New Look” after the editor-in-chief of Harpers Bazaar, Carmel Snow,  exclaimed “It’s such a New Look!

Did these beautiful women in elegant clothes arouse the admiration of passers-by? Did people rush to see them and ask them to pose for photos with them? None of these things occurred. The girls who appeared in this memorable session of Dior later recalled that photo shoot as the worst experience of their lives. They were pushed around and spat on. Their beautiful costumes aroused women’s aggression and contempt and, at the very least, the dismay of men. You can see this expression of dismay in the photo of Richard Avedon of the model Renée, photographed by him at the Place de la Concorde. The men have a look more of surprise and scrutiny than admiration.

This fashion revolution had its dark side in the autumn of 1948 in the Rue Lepic in Paris. A street photographer, Walter Carone, became a witness to the dreadful scene which he documented immediately. A young woman literally had her clothes torn off by older women, who remembered very well having to “make do and mend” during the war and were outraged at what they saw as the obscene waste of fabric in her New Look skirt.

Despite the initial scandal and difficulties, Christian Dior has gained the adoration of women around the world and Paris continues to maintain her status as the fashion capital of the world.

Photos by Richard Avedon and Walter Carone