Photo: Paul Himmel
Referencing what must be an age old question—what is the appropriate thing to wear to this party?—this multi-photographer story from a 1956 Vogue calls for a new approach to evening dressing. Instead of turning up at a party where the guests are dressed in all manner of day and evening clothes, they say that there should be a "dividing line" at six o'clock—after which, one must only dress in exclusively nighttime looks that have no relation to daytime. This rule definitely makes for a more glamorous group of party guests (just take a look at the photos by Irving Penn and Karen Radkai to see the truth in that statement), but in 2015 it can definitely be difficult for most working women to accomplish. While it is inevitable that sometimes we have to go from work directly to a holiday party, just think how much more fun you would have that night if you took a few more minutes to cinch yourself into a tiny-waisted chiffon cocktail dress or a low-backed sequinned evening dress...
Photos by Paul Himmel, Irving Penn and Karen Radkai from Vogue, November 1956.
New dividing line needed? Ask the woman who came to cocktails in her black chiffon dress and found everyone else (as who hasn't at some time?) dressed for practically everything except lacrosse. Starting now, starting at six o'clock, there's a lovely new law-and-order prevailing in fashion: looks expressly for 6 p.m and after—with positively no relation to smart day looks. What this can mean is that every gathering from six o'clock on can really look the part of a party—more worth giving to going to, more refreshing to the eye and the spirit... Here is where a woman can synchronize all watches for the most beautiful winter she ever spent in fashion—could begin at six sharp, tonight.
Back bareness—going deeper. Point being made by many a dress from six o'clock on, this year: a V or U of bare-backness. Here, the barest back in town for the biggest evenings in sight—a dress with a look of being as exclusively evening as the moon. Closely slithered line of taupe sequins; ankle-length hem. Misting this spangled brilliance, a stole of taupe sequins. Traina-Norrell dress, Eisenberg earrings. (Photo by Irving Penn).
More coverage—news covering even the ball dress. Even the dress that's dressed to the nines is often covered to the wrists this year. Coverage appears early (as it should); and often winds up with a surprise: a deeply bared back (that's the case with this dress). Whatever the hour, look for more sleeves in circulation this year; look for the covered dress of no uncertain importance, decided allure. This dress, matte black crêpe for dinner-theatre—its slender skirt a step shorter than ankle-length. By Ceil Chapman. The diamond necklace, over 100 carats, from Van Cleef & Arpels. (Photo by Irving Penn).
Evening chiffon—even more of it. Two things have made chiffon a completely different story this year: the fact that it's in every evening collection here and in Paris, in shapes that cling or flow; the fact that it's even overflowed into the late-day sphere. Happy fashion, too, because—as every woman knows—chiffon is a four-season thing, and becoming every season. Red chiffon cut to the longer-than-day length, floated from a deep and disciplined waist—for little dinners, and happy to go on dancing. By Hannah Troy. (Photo by Karen Radkai).
Black chiffon, and yards of it—drawn into a new willowy snugness and twisted into a halter. The skirt: slightly longer, but shorter at the front. By Pattullo-Jo Copeland. (Photo by Karen Radkai).
Six o'clock look - much more covered. New late-day formula: less of you showing—but showing to advantage. Seductive, too—the gentle length of the sleeve, the well-marked waist. Here, the time is set by elegance rather than by neckline. Black silk crêpe dress, all modulation, with a telling little jacket, black jersey and white ermine. By Herbert Sondheim. (Photo by Karen Radkai).
Black silk crêpe, swung across the figure—to make a new figure—arching at the hip. By Adele Simpson. (Photo by Karen Radkai).