LIFE: Revisiting ‘American Elegance’ in 1950s Fashion

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America lacks the couture history of European nations, and, as a result, its fashion output has often been seen as more casual and less decadent, compared to collections from French and Italian design houses. That distinction was challenged in the fall of 1950, though, when designers unveiled clothing that had “taken on a quality of unmistakable elegance” which was also “unmistakably American,” according to the Sept. 11, 1950 issue of LIFE. In a photo essay that featured mink-trimmed satin coats, tweed suits and rhinestone buttons, Nina Leen’s photographs captured American fashion at its finest—and most fabulous.


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