From The Santa Cruz Sentinel, California; page 7, 22 October 1947.
By Virginia MacPherson
United Press Hollywood Correspondent
“That lo-o-ow Parisian neckline hit Hollywood today, and its ‘open-air bodice’ has all the skimpily endowed ladies hereabouts clutching frantically for more realistic padding.
“Four ‘frontless bosom’ designs brought the loudest gasps at the Los Angeles fashion group’s premiere of world styles.
“And the lady who can smirk ‘I told you so’ is Renie, the RKO designer who predicted the chilly chests three years ago. Only nobody believed her then.
“It was a Renie gown that first raised the carefully-plucked eyebrows of the 1200 merchandisers, stylists and fashion reporters at the $17-peek show at Earl Carroll’s lush nightspot.
“‘And was that neckline ever low,’ shivered the model, a pretty blonde named Bobbie. ‘I was almost afraid to open my coat for fear everything wasn’t covered up.’
“Jean Louis, who designs gowns for the movie queens at Columbia Studios, brought out the next ‘pneumonia neckline.’ A so-called suit – with not much between the chin and belt except a strip of cloth and an artificial pink rose.
Designer Dorothy O’Hara, who says she believes in “emphasising body contours,” proved her point with a marquisette and lace evening dress sprinkled over with gold gauze. The neckline was a scant two inches more “covered-up” than Frenchman Christian Dior‘s “open-front” style.
“But Stylist Orry Kelly‘s strapless satin creation stole the show. It also answered the question about whether the darn things stay up. This one didn’t. The model let out her breath for a minute – and it happened. The revolving platform whisked her backstage in a hurry.
“But the fashion experts at our table turned up their noses at Hollywood’s “front-less bosoms.” Said they were ‘freaks’ – not ‘trends.'”
This report goes on to describe other trends, but I wanted to snip the bit focused on early strapless dresses as I have been researching them for my upcoming book on Fifties Fashion. While I believe the strapless dress was probably invented quite early on,especially given how many dresses were built upon very tightly constructed bodices with bones and stays , and it is certainly well-documented from the early 1930s onwards, the modern strapless dress was certainly perfected in the 1940s. But not quite perfected, as the all-too-classic wardrobe malfunction described above shows!
I also have to share how the article ends, with an intriguing reference to an electric blanket coat that could be plugged in for flying/driving, and the casually reported final note of a hunky male model being objectified by the female audience – both quite unexpected for 1947!
“The show had its other surprises: […] thermostatic coat wired for quick heat that you can plug in on a plane or automobile, and Adrian‘s answer to the new round shoulders – a ‘wing-sleeved’ affair with shoulder padding a foot wide – guaranteed to make you look like a bat in full flight.
“The men were taken care of, too. Tuxedos with Eisenhower jackets in midnight blue. Suede topcoats in bright maroon. But it was the plaid rompers on a muscle man the ladies went for – with whistles and catcalls.”
The other reason I wanted to post this article was because, reading it, something nudged at my memory. I had a feeling I recognised the descriptions. I looked on Wikipedia Commons, and tracked down the image that I had in my head. Strapless gowns by Orry-Kelly and Dorothy O’Hara? Check. 1947? Check. Fashion Group show? Check. The photograph HAS to be from the same event. Even if not, it fits too flawlessly not to be used.