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A wardrobe essential: The cocktail dress

The story of the cocktail dress

· French Etiquette

In the West, the name cocktail dress often conjures up images of elegant cocktail receptions or smoky lounges.

Throughout history, however, cocktail dresses have emerged to represent women's freedom to liberate themselves, regardless of their fabrics, colors, silhouettes, and styles.

Today, cocktail dresses have become the modern woman's first choice of clothing for parties large and small. This week, let's go into the past life of cocktail dresses and find out!

Cocktails came first

There is no doubt that without the cocktail drive, this type of dress would not be popular today. And the word cocktail first came from the early 19th century in the United States, referring to a mixed alcoholic drink.

Subsequently, the drink mixture became more and more popular in the United States and Europe, and cocktail culture grew rapidly after the end of World War I. More and more cocktail parties were held, which provided the conditions for the development of cocktail dresses.

A cocktail dress is exactly the kind of dress that is suitable for attending a soirée cocktail. Unlike the grand evening gown, it is convenient and stylish at the same time.

The Flapper Era

The 1920s were a time of youthful debauchery and self-indulgence, but it also gave young women more independence and freedom. They would appear at cocktail parties or lounges, dancing the Charleston, holding a cigarette in one hand and a cocktail glass in the other, thus rebelling against the stereotypes and conservatism of the older generation.

Because such cocktail parties were usually held in the evening, it also made cocktail dresses a necessary option for women to transition between day and night. Therefore dresses made for this occasion were both practical and fashionable, and gradually became the first choice for progressive women attending cocktail parties in that era.

Meanwhile, in Paris, the cocktail dress was more relaxed, simple and elegant, and was often used for more exclusive and intimate gatherings.

The Handicap

Between 1920 and 1933, the United States enacted a prohibition on the sale of alcohol during this period. In fact, however, tens of thousands of people continued to drink. The continued popularity of booze parties has also increased the demand for cocktail attire.

During this period, the onset of the Great Depression changed theoriginal cylindrical short design of the cocktail dress to a slim, diagonal cut and a long (to the ankle) design. It also made cocktail dresses more practical.

The Golden Age

Christian Dior's "New Look" Collection of 1947

With the prevalence of cocktail parties in the United States, some French designers such as Christian Dior saw the huge market potential and began designing cocktail dresses for American department stores.

Gradually, French cocktail dresses became popular worldwide, withFrench fashion relying on the popularity of travel and American department stores, and American designers relying on fashion magazines such as Vogue and Vanity Fair, and the need for semi-formal dress at cocktail hour.

When it came to the United States in the 1950s, regular cocktail parties had become a part of the social life of the people. Although cocktail parties were not limited to any income level or social status, hostesses and guests were expected to follow fairly strict rules of etiquette.

The New Development

Between the 1970s and 1990s, the social trend of hosting formal cocktails slowly faded from the social scene for cocktail lovers.

Yves Saint Laurent's 1965 Fall/Winter Collection

At this time the concept of the cocktail dress was more of a style than a type of occasion wear. From Yves Saint Laurent's Mondrian dresses of the mid-1960s to the halter dresses worn by Carrie Bradshaw, this "cocktail dress" continues to evolve.

Today, the cocktail dress is still the outfit of choice for some weddings, holiday parties and reception dinners. Its development can be said to be a small microcosm of the changes in society in modern times. It's not too late to add this practical and gorgeous piece to your wardrobe!

Founded in 2018 by Matthieu Ventelon, Hedonia is the first institution in China combining professional Wine and Etiquette expertise in the same training offer.

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