Askirt that tapers gently out from a narrow waist, or a dress that grows gradually wider from the shoulder to the hem, is called an A-line, simply because its shape resembles the letter A. Though the tapered silhouette has been used during various fashion periods, it is generally agreed that the A-line dress became a staple of most women's wardrobes in the 1960s, just as styles were becoming simpler.
The modern A-line silhouette, or shape, was first seen during the mid-1950s, as part of French designer Christian Dior's (1905–1957) New Look. The New Look was a very feminine style, with sweeping skirts, tight tops that emphasized the bosom, and a narrow waist that emphasized full hips. Dior's styles especially emphasized full, tapered, A-shaped skirts, with the shape given by full underskirts. Despite the popularity of the New Look, it was not long before women sought a simpler style. Another French designer, Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (1883–1971), who had become famous for simplifying fashion during the 1920s, introduced more body-hugging designs, and soon Dior had reduced the fullness of his skirts and introduced a simpler, smaller A-line dress.
This simple, geometric A-line dress fit in well with the modern look of the early 1960s, popular with women turning away from the fussy, frilly styles of the 1950s. The style was even more successful once it was worn by the new first lady of the United States, Jacqueline Kennedy (1929–94), who highly influenced fashion of the time. Women around the world admired the young first lady's sense of style and, once she began to wear the new A-line skirt, millions copied her. The A-line skirt has remained a classic style for decades.
Cawthorne, Nigel. The New Look: The Dior Revolution. London, England: Reed Consumer Books, 1996.
Ewing, Elizabeth. History of Twentieth Century Fashion. Revised by Alice Mackrell. Lanham, MD: Barnes and Noble Books, 1992.
Steele, Valerie. Fifty Years of Fashion: New Look to Now. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997.
[ See also Volume 5, 1946–60: New Look ]