Eva Perón’s Iconic 1951 Dior Gown Which Inspired “Evita” The Musical’s Famous Gown.

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Eva Perón began to embrace the Christian Dior ‘New Look’ after her 1947 European “Rainbow Tour.” In effort to transition from her actress persona to First Lady she adopted her signature low chignon, blazing red lipstick and began to acquire Parisian couture. Her favorite designers were Christian Dior and Jacques Fath. Both Dior and Fath kept a dress form in their ateliers with her exact measurements so that they could be ready to work on new custom designs at a moments notice.

When an Italian reporter asked Dior about his royal clients he responded “The only queen I ever dressed was Eva Perón.” When a musical was written about her life in the 1970’s, Andrew Lloyd Webber gave a nod to this designer/client relationship in the song “Rainbow Tour” in which Eva sings “I came from the people, they need to adore me. So Christian Dior me from my head to my toes. I need to be dazzling, I want to be rainbow high. They must have excitement, and so must I.”

Eva used fashion to her advantage and could always be counted on to make a glamorous statement. Having grown up poor, she felt that having the most exquisite and expensive wardrobe helped her compete with the wealthy women who despised her. Some designers created a special Evita collection in addition to their seasonal collections, because if their rich Argentinian clients found out they were dressing Eva Perón they would no longer buy from them.

One of Eva’s favorite styles to wear was a strapless ballgown with a nipped waist and voluminous skirt. She wore this stunning Dior gown on May 30, 1951 just a year before her death, as she attended a national feast commemorating Argentina’s 141st Independence Day. Eva was so heavily photographed in this gown, including photos taken that evening for LIFE magazine that it has become synonymous with her image.

This iconic look inspired the famous white gown worn in stage productions of Evita the musical. In life, Eva never actually wore a ballgown to give speeches on the balcony of Casa Rosada. She wore elegant tailored two piece skirt suits.

Understandably, the dramatic Dior gown re-creation worked better for the musicals visual impact and key art.

Fabrics for Dior’s gowns were chosen for their solidity, accentuated by lining them with percale or taffeta. Eva’s gold gown appears to be made from silk and endless layers of pleated taffeta and covered in gold pailettes which disperse with gradation at the mid point of the skirt. The strapless bodice features princess seams and a there is a belt cinching the waist. This was paired with an exquisite silk-satin evening jacket featuring a mandarin collar, embroidery and dramatic folded cuffs. Her jewelry was likely by Cartier which was her favorite jeweler. Though Eva Perón remains a polarizing figure in history, her fashionable image will live forever.

Renée is a writer, artist, fashion & costume designer & fashion history expert. Shop: leapdayrenee.com. Social: @reneenicolegray

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