Have you ever dreamed of having breakfast at Tiffany’s with Audrey Hepburn – where pearls and dark sunglasses would be the definite attire? Or, perhaps, have you fantasized about basking in a 1950s styled bikini on the sunny beaches of Southern France with Brigitte Bardot? Well you are most definitely stuck in the wrong century! Ain’t that a bite? (That’s too bad!) 

The 1950s had it all – talented celebrities (who were famous for more than just posing and misbehaving on reality TV shows), whimsical music (Jazz and Rock and Roll – anyone?), and classy fashion. No wonder you would want to swing back to this decade!

Fortunately for all of you fashion and 1950s dreamers, the Cotton Couture exhibition at the Manchester Gallery is on display until June, 2015. Cotton Couture is a time portal which will take you from the busy twenty-first century styling of animal print leggings, sequined dresses and faux-fur coats to a sophisticated time of classic pleated skirts and exquisite evening dresses made entirely of COTTON.

But, before launching off on  your exploration of this timeless gem, you need to take our tour of 1950s fashion history to dive into a ravishing culture of luxury and prosperity.

The style revolution of the 1950s began on 12 February, 1947, when a Parisian designer launched his ‘Corolle’ fashion line. Nicknamed the ‘New Look’, this modern style turned the fashion world on its head. The designer, who relentlessly conquered all of the forms and dimensions of couture with this line and turned his name into an international synonym for class, was Christian Dior.

The New Look followed the social transition of the time period, which took place in most of the western civilization – where immense wealth would take over the former poverty-stricken nations. Consequently, the New Look entirely remodelled the square-shouldered, masculine, practical, post-war attire of the 1940s to hatch the most luxurious trends for the new decade.

Dior brought ‘en vogue‘ the ultra-feminine silhouette. Women were now enabled to display their wisp-thin, corseted waistlines and swing in long, swirling skirts. Dior’s line was to endorse a sense of luxurious grace, a notion of confidence, grounded on prosperity and class.

Thus, it was no wonder that his designs engulfed the whole western world. From the United Kingdom to the United States, everyone was trying to copy Dior’s designs and make them readily available for retail. This phenomenon was mostly distinguished in the UK’s North West.

By chance, in the early 1950s, one of the biggest industrial centres in the North West – Manchester – had become the headquarters of the Cotton Board. The Cotton Board wanted to reproduce Dior’s New Look, but at the same time it had another mission to accomplish.The Cotton Board took upon itself to completely discard cotton’s negative image as a ‘tub fabric’ and renown it as the COUTURE must-have for evening wear.

Through high distribution, cotton took on the market by storm and soon designers were strutting down their models dressed head-to-toe in cotton. Many fashion events of the decade featured the easy-care, crinkle-free fabric. Some of the most notorious ones included style parades, their most prominent representative was the Festival of 1951, whose purpose was to raise the spirits of the post-war UK citizens by focusing on fashion, and also at Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne.

Cotton was hence introduced as the avant-guard of couture fashion.

Apart from cotton dresses and gowns, there were many other trends being installed in the 50s including pencil skirts.

Check out below what some of the top trends were at the time:

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