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  cocktail dress c. 1955
aqua cocktail dress  1955 acqua chemise

This short sleeved, knee-length teal dress has a princess style front, piping at the waistline and a fitted skirt. The dress is made of teal taffeta covered with rich teal blue silk chiffon. An overskirt of the same fabric wraps around the body and turns the casual dress into a formal wear. The skirt is supported by layers of tulle and fastens with a hook and eye concealed by a beautiful bow. The ensemble was designed by Lorrie Deb of San Francisco.

The label in the dress reads “International Ladies Garment Worker's Union”, which was a union founded in New York City in 1900 by Jewish, Italian, and Irish immigrants. The ILGWU made history in 1919 when it became the first American union to negotiate an unemployment compensation fund that was contributed to by its employers. The union's membership, however, began to decline after World War II when shops began moving from urban northeast in search of non-unionized, less expensive labor in the south. This trend seems to be continuing in recent years, as increased numbers of manufacturers move their production abroad, taking advantage of cheap third world labor supplies. In 1995 the union merged with the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union to form the present day Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE).

By the end of World War II women sought normalcy as they returned home from war jobs to a more conventional domestic life. At the same time, Christian Dior was introducing the New Look in France which was characterized by a feminine silhouette of thin waist and full skirt. This silhouette resembled that of the Victorian era, which too was characterized by domesticity and maternity.   With its narrow waist and full skirt, this teal, taffeta, princess style dress resembles the New Look and seems to embody the conventional and domestic, both desired traits of the 1950s.

-Courtney Haueter




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This webpage was made possible with the support of the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, the College of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies, and the CSUS Media Center.

The website and costume research were created by Dr. Mary Botkin and the students of FACS 199;Courtney Haueter, Chelsea Perri, Joy Sun, and Rachel Young.

The costumes belong to the Costume Collection of the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Costume photographs by Sam Parsons of the CSUS Media Center.