Rappi dress

2018.039.001a-b: grey satin dress, designed by Rappi (Syd Rappaport)

This dress belonged to artist Rae Hendershot, who was also the wife of T.R. MacDonald, the first director of the Hamilton Art Gallery. This dress epitomizes the fashion trends of the 1950s with its belted waist and flared skirt. Though the label is Rappi, the style is heavily influenced by the fashion pioneer Christian Dior.

The female figure of the 1950s was highly stylized. Clothing fit over a form constricted by shapewear to achieve a small waist. A peplum jacket was often added to enhance the roundness of the hips. Alternatively, a belt was used, as is the case with this dress, to bisect the figure and enhance the waist. The “pencil sharpener” bra was all the rage in this decade leading to a rather pointed look. A well-dressed woman of the 1950s did not jiggle or bulge; everything was contained within girdles or other forms of elastic shapewear.


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