This article first appeared in Shrimpton Curated on January 20, 2014. Written by Maria Echeverri
The 1950s was a decade of prosperity and growth. As more people gained access to travel, skiing quickly grew in popularity. With these larger markets came new developments, particularly in textile technology. Synthetics proved to be warmer and more waterproof than natural fibers. For decades, skiwear has remained on the forefront of fabric innovation. In 1949 Balenciaga created a shiny, lacquered fabric called Cracknyl for use in skiwear and raincoats. A handful of companies specializing in skiwear production were founded in this era. They proved to be extraordinarily influential. Head was founded in 1950 in New Hampshire. In 1952, French outdoorsman and entrepreneur René Ramillon founded Moncler. The company began selling sleeping bags and soon expanded to down parkas.
Willy Bogner founded this eponymous line in 1932. The company’s first fashion show took place in Munich’s Hofbräuhous in 1948. His wife, Maria Lux, is generally credited with some of the most important innovations in skiwear. She presented bold colors that stood out against the all white landscape. Most groundbreaking of all were Bogner stretch pants, made from a wool/nylon blend, which featured a strap at the inset to keep the pant snug in ski boats. The stirrup pants were an instant success, adopted by Hollywood wiggling actresses Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. The snug trousers were referred to as the “The Bogners”. In 1951, the line was featured on the cover of Grazia and the company gained international acclaim. The pant continues to narrow as Bogner’s influence grew.
The elastic effect was not popular with all ski tastemakers. In 1957, Fred Picard, “international authority on glamour in the snow”,chimed in on the trend for the Spokane Daily Chronicle . “Properly fitted ski pants should have a taunt, narrow look which gives a girl a slim long-legged appearance. But if they are too tightly fitted of elasticized fabric they may have the opposite effect and reveal bumps and bulges which are better concealed.” The article shows the far-reaching draw of the ski vacation, and how it was being marketed to the new generation of single women. “The best way to hunt a husband is on skis. A girl can look sexier in ski clothes than in a bathing suit. Most men find women intriguing if something is left to the imagination. A beautiful girl is never more radiant than when her cheeks are glowing and her eyes sparkling from healthful outdoor exercise at 10 below.” Picard lost the battle and in 1962, Sports Illustrated reported , “The best ski tailors in the world: Bogner of Munich, skiwear division of Christian Dior, Ernst Engel of New York. Among the slimmest stretch suits of all are those by Engel. His men’s ski pants and jacket have elasticized side inserts, modeled on those worn by French racers. His new women’s pants are cinched below the knee with a strap that takes some of the tiring pressure off the strap under the instep. “
The 1960s saw the second wave of ski style, one marked by real innovation in design and the unparalleled glamour of high society, royalty, and Hollywood. The handsome and suave Jean Claude Killy seemed the embodiment of James Bond. Audrey Hepburn sparkled in her chocolate Givenchy cat suit in 1963’s Charade. Sporty photographers Toni Frissel and Peter Beard captured the likes of Jackie Kennedy, Grace Kelly, and Ann Bonfoey Taylor on the slopes. The shots are impossibly chic. A new generation of fashion designers was drawn to the mystic of ski life. Some even launched their careers through it. Emilio Pucci was born an aristocrat and grew into an avid skier. After the war, he designed skiwear for himself and his friends. Harper’s Bazaar photographer Toni Frissell spotted him in a chic hooded parka and streamlined pants and encouraged him to produce more. In 1948, he designed his first collection, produced by White Stag. He began to research textiles and develops his distinct bold style. The rest is history. Throughout the 1960s, he continues skiwear innovation alongside his main line, launching stretch bodysuits Viva Panty and Capsula.
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