This evening dress is made of silk and has a white net overlay. The bodice and part of the skirt are decorated with purple lace. It is strapless and has a sweetheart neckline. The skirt has multiple layers of tulle for volume and the bodice is boned. There is a Talon zipper on the proper left side of the waist. This dress also has an interior label that reads "Will Steinman, Original". Features that are indicative of the 1950s are the New Look silhouette, the cinched waist, and the side seam zipper. This dress was worn by Janie or Doris Cole of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
This dress is part of a collection of 18 party and evening dresses purchased at department stores and dress shops in downtown Grand Rapids between 1952 and 1955. They were worn by sisters Doris and Janie Cole to parties, dances, and various social events.
This style of dress was known as the New Look which was created by Christian Dior in 1947. The New Look featured cinched waists, full skirts, and emphasized the bust and hips. Dior often lined his skirts with taffeta or percale to help it retain its full shape. This style of dress remained popular throughout the 1950’s and was a turning point in women’s fashion. During World War II fabrics were rationed and women’s style allowed for very few embellishments. Restrictions were put on the number of seams allowed in a garment, the number of buttons that could be used, and how many pleats were allowed. Women had to provide coupons when buying fabric and ready-to-wear clothing had to meet government standards. When the New Look was introduced after the war, women were lining up to purchase the style which promoted femininity and curves.
1953 – 1955
Tulle, Lace, Silk
54" h 54" w
Current Location Status:
Gift Of Janice E. Cole, Doris A. Cole Louis And Helen Cole
All Dressed Up, 1950s Style
()Fashion + Nature
(April 2022 – April 2024)Fashion + Nature examines the relationships between the natural world and the fashion industry. Clothing has long been produced with natural materials and inspired by the beauty and diversity of the natural world, but the fashion industry has had a largely negative impact on the environment. This exhibit showcases a wide variety of captivating scientific specimens and fascinating garments, to illustrate their relationship to each other and their interconnected histories. Fashion + Nature aims to inspire and educate visitors, encouraging us to become better consumers and reduce the harmful impacts of the fashion industry.
Doris ColeDoris Cole was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1938 to Louis and Helen Cole. She had a sister, Janice Cole, who was born in 1936.
Doris was raised in Grand Rapids and graduated from East Grand Rapids High School in 1955. She received a Bachelor of Arts from Radcliffe College in 1959 and went on to earn her Master’s in Architecture from Harvard University Graduate School of Design in 1963. Doris began her career in Paris and Boston but in 1981 she became a founding member of Cole and Goyette in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She stayed with the business until 2012 when she opened her own practice, Doris Cole FAIA. She is also an established author, writing five books about architecture including the first book in the United States about women in architecture. Will SteinmanWill Steinman was a formal dress company that operated from the 1920s through the 1960s. They specialized in prom, formal, and wedding dresses.