By Janet Serra

Posted: 04/07/2017 17:02:47

The Darien Historical Society located on 45 Old King's Highway on the grounds of the historic 1736 Bates Scofield Home has a  new exhibition, "Mannequins on the Runway, Haute Couture and Contemporary Designs of the 20th Century" that will be on display through the end of August.

In keeping with its mission to tell the ongoing story of "costume", one of history's most tangible artifacts, the Darien Historical Society is presenting designer and ready-to- wear styles that existed during and after World War II. Mannequins on the Runway, Haute Couture and Contemporary Designs of the 20th Century highlights five decades of fashion with designer outfits from the 1940s through the 1990s. It follows the history of prêt-à-porter, or ready-to- wear, as it largely replaced haute couture in the fashion industry. 

This exhibition is set up with exhibit to mimic a 20th century fashion show, with mannequins lined up as if on the runway. Fashions are arranged chronologically, beginning with a 1947 design by Christian Dior. At the end of World War II, women longed to replace fashion's stiff, square shoulders and straight lines. Dior's more romantic look took the fashion world by storm." Dior's success allowed Paris to reassert its world leadership of haute couture following its decline during the war.

Dior eventually commissioned his designs to be produced abroad as ready-to- wear lines in the 1950s and Yves Saint Laurent followed suit with his "Rive Gauche" designs. In the 60s, the charm and elegant style of Jackie Kennedy was greatly admired and copied, and Sophie of Saks and Elizabeth Arden, both represented in the exhibit, produced designs in New York. By the mid- 60s, fashion began to focus on youth, their music, and their "free-wheeling" attitude, producing the most potent symbol of the 60s scene, the miniskirt, also on display.

Bill Blass and Oscar de la Renta creations reflect the bold fabrics of the 1980s, which also heralded the look of big shoulders and giant sleeves. The Reagan administration signaled the return of formality, and Adolfo and Ungaro fashions mirror the 90s, an era in which ready-to- wear had become dominant. In keeping with a typical fashion show of the 20th century, the exhibit concludes with a bridal gown: a 1983 design by Carolina Herrera, socialite and longtime fixture on the best-dressed list.

The Museum is open  Tuesday - Thursday from noon to 5 pm and Sundays, noon to 3 p.m. 

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