What was Dior's path to fame? Was it "rosé-carved" or "covered with stones"? How did he manage to create almost a mythical fashion style, which, at one moment, transformed Dior's name into one of the fashion legends of the century? Maybe only Coco Chanel was able to compete with the recognition of Dior's name, because the romantic fashion revolution that he caused - forever changed the fashion trends of the 20th century.
Indeed, Dior had a great deal of success in his journey to fame, but he himself was a man in the right place and time, coming to terms with ideas that the public was unaware of in the post-war years ...
And again, this is a small story dedicated to creative work of Christian Dior. Because this is the year when we especially remember his performance and there is a good reason, because House of Dior was founded 70 years ago! So, let's look back at the birth of a legend!
The Birth Of The New Look
Christian Dior's (1905 - 1957) main contribution to the 20th century was that fashion was a product of fantasy and that fantasy was a good means of escapism from reality. His designs were dream-like and outrageously opulent. The skirt of a luxurious evening gown required up to 90 yards of fabric.
The New Look was nostalgically reminiscent of a feminity defined through seductive beauty. It had nothing to do with the demands of the mechanized, fast-living modern world of the late 1940's and 1950's. That was the fashion design that took post-war consumers on a nostalgic flight back into a fantasy world. It depicted pictures of great women and fairy-tale princesses, of wealth and luxury, of intoxicating balls and theater evenings, of promenades in the park and elegant tea parties.
On February 12, 1947, as Paris shivered in sub-zero temperatures, Christian Dior presented his legendary first collection in a salon on the Avenue Montaigne 30. An invited audience was shown 90 outfits, defined by two themes: "Huit"("Eight"), featuring tiny waists and curvaceous hips; and "Corolle", featuring plunging necklines and calf-length skirts. The models paraded endless yards of fabric as they came down the catwalk. Marcel Boussac, textile magnate could feel pleased... Christian Dior once said that he would like to establish a small, discreet house for a hand-picked selection of truly elegant women... And with this wish Dior persuaded famous textile magnate Boussac to lend him the money for his couture business.
Christian Dior's black woolen suit from the Corolle line, 1947
Image source: glamourdaze.com/2017/09/paris-collection-dior-1947.html
Post-War Boom & Fifties
Dior resurrected fashion in glamorous style as France experienced the post-war boom and modernism of the 50's appeared on the horizon. Dior's revolution was based on tradition. Shapes and silhouettes remained classic, but he gave them innovative twists and a decent dose of eccentricity. His fame quickly spread beyond Paris and he was featured on the cover of Time magazine. The legendary words of Carmel Snow, editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar was a culmination of a huge press campaign organized for Dior.
"It's a revolution, dear Christian, your dresses have such a new look..."
With the "New Look", a legend was born, and with it the greatest fashion empire in the world was created in the middle of the 20th century. The legendary two words - New Look - became the key to the fame for Dior's first collection launched in 1947.
Dior brought new gleam and glamour to the world of fashion. After so many years of deprivation, people were hungry for pretty clothes. Many women wished to appear feminine once again in the traditional sense, to disguise the marks of the hard work. Post-war reconstruction and growing prosperity influenced the ways in which people expressed themselves.
In the 1950's Unites States and many European countries enjoyed a previously unheard level of booming affluence. The fabric industry boomed in the fifties. The new synthetic materials were introduced into the market, all claiming to be easy to care for and to be beautiful reflection of the more expensive natural fibers such as silk and taffeta. Such the new fabrics helped many women to embody the dream that was created by Dior.
After a successful launch of the New Look, Dior became a regular feature of the international social scene. Nieman Marcus awarded the young couturier fashion's equivalent of an Oscar. Many of his contemporaries soon began to imitate him. Dior became a symbol of luxury and elegance regained, making Paris once again the home of glamour and Haute Couture.
Soon after his Paris show, Dior went to New York to open his own shop on Fifth Avenue. In less than five years, he created a real fashion empire, whose structure would be borrowed and copied by many other great fashion houses.
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My name is Edīte Parute and I am a fashion historian and researcher from Latvia, association member at "The Association of Dress Historians" (UK) and author of the book "Stila un modes enciklopēdija"/"Encyclopedia of Style and Fashion" (2010) as well as author of many publications.