Afternoon all. Did you see Designer Love – Chanel on the blog recently? As mentioned in that post I am going to be dedicating a series of blog posts to my favourite classic designers and this second post of the series is for the iconic Christian Dior.
French fashion designer Christian Dior was born near the coast of Normandy, France in 1905 and died fairly young in 1957. Dior’s family wanted him to become a diplomat, but he was far to creative for this and had an interest in fashion from a very young age. To make money he sold his fashion sketches outside his house for 10 cents each!
In 1928 Dior left school and opened a small art gallery with a friend, after receiving money from his father, where they sold art by the likes of Pablo Picasso! The gallery had to be closed after only three years after Dior’s mother and brother died and his father lost their family business in the financial crisis. Dior then worked with fashion designer Robert Piguet, until he was called up for military service in 1940.
Dior left the Army in 1942 and joined the fashion house of Lucien Lelong. During World War II, Dior, as an employee of Lelong — who worked to preserve the French fashion industry during the war — designed dresses for the wives of Nazi officers and French collaborators, as did other fashion houses that remained open during the war.
Whilst Dior was dressing Nazi women, his sister Catherine (1917—2008) was living in stark contrast serving as a member of the French Resistance. Catherine was captured by the Nazi’s and sent to a concentration camp where she was imprisoned until May 1945. The Miss Dior Parfum was named after Catherine Dior.
The Christian Dior fashion house was founded by Dior in December of 1946, and backed by cotton and fabric magnate Marcel Boussac. The first collection, presented in early 1947, is now famously known as the “New Look”. This was not however the original name but later labelled so by Carmel Snow, editor and chief of Harpers Bazaar. The original name was was “Corolle” – literally the botanical term corolla or circlet of flower petals in English.
Dior’s designs were more voluptuous than the fabric conserving shapes of the recent World War II styles, influenced by the rations on fabric. Creating shapes and silhouettes was what Dior did best and is quoted as saying “I have designed flower women.” He used fabrics lined mostly with percale, boned, bustier-style bodices, hip padding, wasp-waisted corsets and petticoats that made his dresses flare out from the waist, giving his models a very curvaceous form.
To start with women were not happy that his designs covered up their legs, which they had been unused to because of the recent fabric rations. They soon came around however and the “New Look” is said to have revolutionized women’s dress and reestablished Paris as the center of the fashion world after the War.
Dior expanded out of France in 1949 and by the end of the year Dior made up 75% of Paris’s fashion exports and 5% of France’s total export revenue. In 1950, Jacques Rouët (manager of Dior) devised a licensing program to place the name of Christian Dior on a variety of luxury goods, such as neck-ties, handbags, jewellery and scarves. It was denounced as a degrading action for the haute-couture image. Nevertheless, it became profitable and began a trend which all couture houses followed.
Dior died on 23 October 1957 of his third heart attack whilst on holiday in Italy. The exact circumstances are still unknown – some reports say that he died of a heart attack after choking on a fish bone, others after playing a game of cards and another after a strenuous sexual encounter!
What about the photos – which is your favourite? As with the Chanel ones I always love the vintage photos and how amazing is this last image – a fabulous floral catwalk space.
Have a good afternoon and I shall be back soon 🙂 xx
Historical information via Wikipedia.