The New Look and the New Waist Line

NewLook49The November 1947 issue of Harper’s Bazaar was all about the New Look, that big style shift from the shorter, boxier silhouette of the World War Two era. It is the first time I really grasped the role of fashion magazines as a teaching tool. A feature called “Dear Bazaar” included a list of questions and answers designed to clear up any confusion about the change in style. To the query “What is the new look,” the editors replied: “The new look is a new shape, and that shape follows the lines of the best possible figure, emphasizing every feminine charm—the very tiny waist, the rounded bosom, the curve of the hips.”

The subsequent exchange revealed some of the anxiety on the minds of many, surely including older women who tend to gain weight at the waist. “You keep saying tiny waists. What happens when a woman simply hasn’t one?” Here’s the answer: “Every woman has a waist, and this year she must find it. She will have a lot of help from (1) the corsetieres who are making light, laced waistbands, higher girdles with shaping through the waist, and long, comfortable, bodice-brassieres; (2) wide grosgrain waistbands sewn into your dresses and skirts; (3) padding at hips and bosom, to create by contrast the optical illusion of a tiny waist; (4) waist line exercises.”

I’m not sure how old the woman is in this 1949 snapshot found in a thrift store, but she could be pushing fifty. Certainly she does not have a tiny waist, but she does have one. It is emphasized by the shape of jacket, with a broader shoulder, the curve in at the waist line, and the expansion out at the hips. Was she wearing one of the new girdles designed to help create this shape, I wonder. And was she keeping up with waist line exercises?


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4 Responses to The New Look and the New Waist Line

  1. Equally impressive is her bust — high and presumably well supported.

  2. I’d bet that she was wearing a waist-enhancing corset or girdle. She looks quite “solid” under that suit.

  3. Oh God, now I have to go find where I left my waist. I remember my Grandma’s all-in-one girdle contraption in the early 60s. When I hugged her, she felt like a dressform.

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