Couture That's Not Juicy

This Saturday, London's V&A museum debuts 'The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957'. The exhibit will feature 100 outfits from houses
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This Saturday, London's V&A museum debuts 'The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957'. The exhibit will feature 100 outfits from houses
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This Saturday, London's V&A museum debuts 'The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957'. The exhibit will feature 100 outfits from houses like Dior, Balenciaga, and lesser-known English couturiers like Hardy Amies and Norman Hartnell. There will also be bills and receipts on display --one informs us that in 1950 a couture Balenciaga evening gown cost $230--. Though today's couture is often discussed as one of the last links to the hallowed traditions of luxury clothing, the show and accompanying article in October's Vogue UK throw light on just how much it's changed. In 1950 there were over 30 couture houses in Paris. A couturier would present 150-200 looks a collection, all of which were intended for sale. Shows took place daily until interest in ordering the clothing was gone, and customers might order 30 outfits from a single house in a season. A suit from Dior's 'New Look' collection retailed for $180. For those on a tighter budget, retailers like Bergdorfs bought patterns directly from the designers to make their own, cheaper, versions of the couture looks. Nan Kempner was a lifelong customer of couture, both in the "golden era" and in the nineties. Before she died she declared that couture is not "made for real women anymore. It's theater now-- and I've seen it all." Couture today does seem like a distant, fantastic dream. But if you're looking for a peek at the era when couture was something you wore for a walk in the park, check out the V&A-- or if you can't make it to London, just buy the exhibition catalog. --ANNA FIELDING GRIGGS