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In Tunisia with Harper's Bazaar, 1950

Posted by Laura
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Top-heavy over the shortest of shorts, Carolyn Schnurer's bloused middy of red knit cotton strung on a drawstring, worn over a navy-blue two-piece bathing suit of ribbed Lonsdale cotton. Each, about $13.

 

 

The 1940s and 1950s at Harper's Bazaar—when fashion editor Diana Vreeland and art director Alexey Brodovitch were collaborating with photographers like Louise Dahl-Wolfe under the very chic and watchful eye of EIC Carmel Snow—was one of the greatest eras for fashion magazines ever. The photographs are luminous and creative, the fashions in impeccable taste, the articles intriguing, Vreeland's column hilarious—and all laid out with innovative skill by Brodovitch. A collaborative match made in magazine heaven. This editorial is just one such sequence that stands out among many; traveling to Tunisia, Dahl-Wolfe shot the summer's best fashions for 1950. Still quite '40s in feel, though some of that decades greatest designers (Claire McCardell and Grès) were adding a certain lushness to their skirts and tightness to the waists that reflected the sweeping influence of Dior's 'New Look' (a term coined by HB's Carmel Snow). Discussing the trend for teeny waists, they reference a new elastic belt by Schiaparelli that "whittles off inches"—though most women then would have worn a girdle under their clothes to achieve that affect, this can be seen as a prototype for the waist-trainers that are all the rage now.

Even in black-and-white the blistering heat is apparent—all harsh sun and little escape—yet the model is the epitome of poised, glacial cool. Sweat-free she poses in short shorts, molded bathing suits, romantic dresses and djellaba-like coats. Who's ready for a North African vacation now?

 

Photos by Louise Dahl-Wolfe for Harper's Bazaar, May 1950.

In this issue Harper's Bazaar anticipates summer—in Tunisia. At Hammamet, ten miles from the spot where the Germans made their last stand, we find ourselves in the marvelous villa of George Sebastian—a house of vistas, of sun and shadow, of black and white, of silent courts where pillows of snow leopard are thrown about at siesta time. Under its arches we pick up the first point in our summer fashion story, to set your summer wardrobe off to a smart start. 

 

 

Clare Potter's big top with dolman sleeves, shirred on a band that stops just short of the waist. It's bright red wool jersey. About $40.. Black Moygashel Irish linen shorts, about $30.

 

 

From Persia, by way of Scotland, the wool Paisley shawl has had a long and colorful career. Here, its newest manifestation—as a bathing suit, the wool very thin, the colors gold, olive, scarlet and black, darkly vivid in the bright white light of the beach. The cut is two-piece—the shorts straight with just a touch of roundness, the bodice straight-topped and strapless (or you can tie a halter with the shoestring straps supplied). By Clare Potter. About $50.

 

 

In the clever hands of Grès, linen—that clean and classic summer fabric—takes many unexpected turns. Grès's dead white linen, strapless, with an abundant skirt. An inky blue linen kerchief is attached to the peak in back, comes around to a loose knot in front. Adapted in America by Macy's. $32.75.

 

 

Another Grès, in the bleached beige of driftwood—a high, tiny top; a truly ingenious combination of pleated skirt and knickers, the one joined inseparably to the other.

 

 

All shades of roses printed on eggshell lawn—a rounded line, a pastoral look. By Claire McCardell. About $40.

 

 

Pink at its pinkest—India pink—on a perfect shirt of rayon tissue faille. About $13. Cuffed shorts of white piqué, about $11. Both B. H. Wragge. We love this pink-and-whiteness with lots of gilt (the earrings shown are by Mosell), golden skin, a fresh pink rose at the waist.

 

 

From America, we flew over this Caltex bathing suit, designed by Howard Greer, in black velvet edged with black lace, its bodice shaped like a ball dress. $25.

 

 

From Grès in Paris, we flew down to Tunisia this exciting poncho of ink-blue with its straight wrap-around skirt of white linen, slit almost to the waist to allow its wearer to show off the length of her sun-tanned legs.

 

 

White cotton-lace flowers on a perfectly plain pullover of black wool jersey, with perfectly plain and perfectly immaculate shorts and visor of white matelassé piqué. By Owen Morgan. Top, $10.95. Shorts, $9.95.

 

 

Shirt dress by Star-Maid. About $50.

 

 

Shirt dress by McMullen.

 

 

A brightly embroidered shirt front on spun rayon, By C. H. D. Robbins. About $25.

 

 

Schiaparelli's inky terry cloth is the newest thing in Paris, and, with white, the sharpest thing on sand or sea. Not obvious here, Schiap's exciting new innovation—a wide cummerbund of black elastic sewn to the top of the pants and buckling in back like a man's vest. It gives a wonderful for around the waist, and whittles off inches.

 

 

Cool yet covering, massively, blindingly white, this Grès coat is pure heaven in the hot sun. The hood can be turned down to form a collar. Beneath, there is a spare white linen dress.

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