Thursday, March 15, 2012

Louella Ballerino: early 1940's, Mexican Design Influences

This jacket and skirt was designed in 1942 by Louella Ballerino. She mixed applied rows of ribbon, metallic braid and colored fabric bands on black rayon faille background on a dirndl skirt. The prim fitted jacket with notched front peplum was worn over the gypsy style skirt.

She was a strong influence in the adaption of ethnic garments and textiles into popular fashion, and this outfit is a good example of that look. Recently there have been several strong trends in color blocking that seem to be inspired by her designs. In looking at this, it is easy to imagine wearing a similar skirt today.

A press release for Holiday, Winter of 1944 gives us the more information about her collections at this time. During the 1940's she was influenced by Mexican design and themes. Ms. Ballerino gathered her inspiration from trips she made to Mexico, collecting textiles, garments and samples of embroidery that she would later use in her designs.

At the time she was known for using ribbon motifs in her fashions. Bright and casual, these were often sporty, leisure wear ensembles that could make the transition between day and night. They were worn for evenings at home, dinner parties, and dancing.

To create these designs she used bengaline, usually in black. This was a shiny, ribbed textile of rayon with a moderate weight and crisp hand. Her ribbons were as narrow as 1/4", and ranged up to 6" wide. The ribbon colors were bright; fuchsia, blue-green, lime and other tropical colors. The colors were given more emphasis by the black bengaline background.

Bodice silhouettes were designed in off-the shoulder blouses of the same bengaline or a long slender tops with a basque or peplum bottom worn over that gathers of a dirndl skirt. It could have long loose sleeves. Some tops had horizontal ribbon work as well.

Gathered dirndl skirts were a signature for her. Normally during this era, women wore "A" line or nearly bias skirts with less fullness. She also included black pants with the ribbon group. Other lines she designed during this time would have matching bra tops worn with culotte shorts and jackets to go over the bra, along with peasant type blouses. These all contributed to the casual outdoor lifestyle that California was marketing at the time. They were looks that were seen across the country, sold in better department stores. It was a great time for American fashion design.

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This dress is currently on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Information on the exhibit is HERE.

Facts: HERE
Jacket Center back = 17.5" long
Skirt Center back = 43" long

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