The glamour years
The New Look was a style of dress created by Christian Dior in 1947 which had come to represent the epitome of sophistication and elegance of its day.
Although initially condemned by the British Board of Trade due to the extravagant use of scarce fabric in the full skirts, its femininity and youth attracted Princess Margaret. She had one of her coats altered to suit the new style and wore her first all-out New Look suit, provided by Norman Hartnell, to the silver wedding celebrations of her parents on 26 April 1948. After Princess Margaret adopted it, the style quickly gained widespread popularity in Britain.
Princess Margaret was most prominent in the British media from the early 1950s into the 1960s. In June 1953 Picture Post ran an article entitled ‘Fashion and Princess Margaret’, which noted that ‘what she wears is News. It is seen by thousands of women in person, hundreds of thousands on news reels, millions who read the newspapers and magazines.’
Princess Margaret was considered by the public as a glamorous royal. She appeared at ease as she undertook charity events, engaging with members of the general public, and just as composed conversing with the world’s most famous celebrities.
Main image: Princess Margaret is pictured at the races at Kingston during the Royal Tour of the Caribbean, 1955. (popperfoto.co.uk)
The nature of the Princess’s work meant that she took great pride in her appearance and she was always impeccably presented. On 15 August 1953, London Illustrated commented that ‘The Princess … rapidly established herself as a leader of fashion. The Margaret look came to mean simple elegance for the younger set.’
Princess Margaret once stated that, ‘my favourite dress of all…was my first Dior dress, white strapless tulle and a vast satin bow at the back.’
Her style captured the essence of the New Look. John Galliano’s gowns for Dior Haute Couture 2005 used flowing fabrics to create delicate yet extravagant dresses. Ian Garlant at London couture house Hardy Amies created a modern debutante’s gown with luxurious swathes of silk taffeta skilfully knotted into feminine bows.
Both these examples are representative of the influence of the princess’s enduring image of glamour and femininity over contemporary fashion, even in the field of haute couture.