A mature lady was assisted by two men into 30 Avenue Montaigne in Paris, France on February 12th, 1947. She donned fine furs, white gloves and an air of absenteeism. Inside the fashion house, she sat on the soon to be coveted couch, where she appeared to sleep for the duration of the press showing of 171 designs of haute couture.
The next day, the same woman returned to the fashion house alone and requested to see ten dresses again. So meticulous were her descriptions of the dresses, down to the very last stitch, that it took the sales staff no longer than 15 minutes to locate the ten garments. She left the house and made the famous phone call to America describing the line as the “New Look”. The woman was none other than Carmel Snow, iconic Editor-in-Chief of famed fashion magazine Harper Bazaar, and the house she entered that changed the fashion industry forever, was that of Christian Dior.
A mere three years before the debut of Dior’s first collection on that February day, the German troops of the Third Reich were occupying Paris. Parisian citizens were living through a period of poverty and dismay. The New Look returned to woman the femininity which had been put aside during the tragic war years. In essence Dior offered women a new look and a renewed outlook.
The first collection – Corolle – featured rounded shoulders, cinched waists and full skirts – celebrating femininity in its finest, most glamorous form. The elegance and extravagance of the ‘Corolla’ theme (the botanical term for a circlet of flower petals), with its distinctive off-the-shoulder décolleté and yards of magnificent material marked a new era for fashion.
“Dior was like a magnificent painting you hang on the wall.” – Yves Saint Laurent
Christian Dior loved to play with silhouettes and shapes, and once stated “I have designed flower women.” In the 1950’s, haute couture fashion from the House of Dior were crafted from sumptuous fabrics, embellished and supported with boning, bodices, petticoats, and hip padding to give any woman wearing a Dior garment a graceful yet curvaceous figure.
Women from every walk of life loved Dior and he quickly became a household name. The couturier dressed the world’s most fabulous people. From first ladies and movie stars to royalty and socialites, they came from all corners of the globe to visit The House of Dior and be dressed in his famous fashion house at 30 Avenue Montaigne, Paris.
Dior was an artist. He found great inspiration in the female form – a spectacular canvas to which he created extraordinary, timeless works of wearable art. He mentored a future generation of haute couture designers, including Yves St. Laurent.
Dior’s untimely death in 1957 left a void in the fashion world. While he only designed for a decade, Dior was a pioneer of French fashion and today, remains the legend that inspired the spectacular French city to be dubbed the world’s capital of fashion. The House of Dior remains a true exemplar of fashion and with the inspiration of Dior at its helm; the line will continue to be at the forefront of imaginative yet wearable haute couture.
Christian Dior on the topic of elegance:
“I will only say now that elegance must be the right combination of distinction, naturalness, care and simplicity. Outside this, believe me, there is no elegance… only pretension. Elegance is not dependent on money. Of the four things I have mentioned above, the most important of all is care. Care in choosing your clothes. Care in wearing them. Care in keeping them. But it is possible for a woman to be elegant without spending very much money on her clothes, if she follows the basic rules of fashion and is careful to choose the clothes that suit her personality.”
By: Chelsea Forman – NICHE Magazine Winter 2013