These days I am holding in my hands one of the Vogue’s editions about the most significant couturiers of the last century: “Vogue on Christian Dior”, written and systematized by Charlotte Sinclair, pleases both mind and eyes whilst going through the pages; I am so happy to share the story of Dior herein, since my fashion ideas are very correlated with his fashion sense. The story that goes brings so many surprises!
When Christian Dior opened his own maison, he was forty-one years old. Surprise was his weapon and his taste and ideals spread so fast that soon after his first collection the name “Dior” was ringing in everyone’s ears. Christian Dior paved the way into the new trend in fashion and, sooner or later, many wanted to be a part of his dreams.
How everything started? Dior’s fashion beginnings were about sketching and selling his ideas to magazines and couture houses. They brought him to the Swiss couturier Robert Piguet and afterwards to the house of Lucien Lelong. When he heard that the textile baron Marcel Boussac wanted to re-establish the house of Philippe et Gaston, asking for a new designer, Christian went for an interview but, instead of accepting that position, he offered his own house for the consideration: the house that will live for the highest traditions of haute couture and great luxury – and Boussac accepted. He offered him six million francs for its realization. That was nothing more but a leap of faith.
The news about that agreement spread quickly in the fashion magazines of the time. An appearance of such kind was enormously desired in the post-war France, the refreshment in the city where designers are lionised. Even Vogue wrote that last year’s (…) Paris hats and skirts were as out-dated as last year’s bombs.
On 12 February 1947, at 30 Avenue Montaigne, Dior presented his first collection. Being very influenced by the Belle Époque, during the show that took two hours, he presented full skirts dropped to just over thirty-five centimetres from the ground, the lines that were admiring the woman shape, luxurious fabrics that were altogether hold by the hidden garments giving such shape – that was The new look, the new chapter in fashion.
Dior was not alone: the well known quarter was made of Raymonde Zehnacker, the deputy, Mitzah Bricard, the muse, and Marguerite Carré, the technical director. The whole process would start with choosing the textiles that were brought to the maison for Dior to make his choices. Afterwards he would start sketching the silhouettes and then send them to his technical director for their producing. Every single dress had a name.
Such fashion trend, but also the expensiveness in the time of fighting with misery, caused a lot of scandals that even a photographer captured a model being attacted on a Paris street, in the act in which her Dior dress was ripped. The lowest price for an item was one hundred pounds (in today’s money: two thousand pounds) and the evening dresses could reach the amount of three hundred and forty pounds (in today’s money: ten thousand pounds). Even such criticism was not long lasting because within the several seasons any woman in an “old look” dress was marked for pity and ridicule.
The names of collections through the years: 1948 – Envol and Zig Zag; 1949 – Tromple L’Oeil and Mid-Century; 1950 – Oblique and Vertical; 1951 – Oval and Long; 1952 – Sinuous and Profile; 1953 – Tulip and Cupola; 1954 – Lily of the Valley and H line; 1955 – A line and Y line; 1956 – Arrow line and Magnet line, and for 1957 – Libre and Spindle.
Each collection was different from the previous one, as Dior himself said: “Line by line, this is the history of my house”. In 1949 his collection was so successful that within eight days after it, the order was that big as one thousand and two hundred dresses. In 1954 Dior maison reached five buildings and twenty-eight workrooms that counted one thousand workers. In 1952 Dior started to show the new easiness in his work, but in 1957 his collection proposed a limber silhouette and relaxed attitude that was the antithesis of the corseted and cantilevered dresses with which Dior had founded his career ten years previously. That was his last collection.
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