Christian Dior was the most influential fashion designer of the late 1940s and 1950s. In fashion history, he is one of the most interesting stores. By establishing Dior as a global brand across a wide range of products, new business model was defined by Christian in the post-war fashion industry. With the hourglass silhouette of his voluptuous ‘New Look,' he dominated fashion after World War II. His vision continues to be at forefront of current fashion even over sixty years later that proves that he was certainly a visionary. He was best known for his eponymous fashion house and was a French couturier.
Christian Dior’s Start in Fashion
Christian began his fashion career by selling sketches of hats to Parisians in year 1935. Hist hats were more in demand although he drew dresses too. He spent his early years designing for the likes of Lucien Lelong and Robert Piguet. He joined the fashion house of Lucien Lelong in year 1942. He and Pierre Balmain were the primary designers in this fashion house. For artistic and economic reasons, Lelong labored to preserve the fashion industry of France during wartime (Rik, 2008, pp. 593). He used to design dresses for French collaborators and wives of Nazi as a way of preserving the fashion industry throughout the conflict for both artistic and economic reasons.
In year 1939, Amphora dresses were designed by Christian that featured rounded hips. He also created costumes for the theater. However, he was assigned to farm duty and was drafted into the engineer corps of the army as the World War II erupted. Backed by Marcel Boussace, Christian founded his fashion house in year 1946. This newest house was a Paris sensation. Corolle was the actual name of the line of his first collection and was presented in year 1947. He became an overnight sensation, after the release of his first collection.
In comparison to the fabric-conserving and boxy shapes of the recent World War II styles, influenced by the rations on fabric, Christian’s designs were more voluptuous. Christian was a master at creating silhouettes and shapes. Fabrics lined predominantly with petticoats, wasp-waisted corsets, hip padding, and bustier-style bodices, and boned were employed by Christian, which gave his models a very curvaceous form and made his dresses flare out from the waist. Due to the amount of fabrics used in a suit or a single dress, there was also some backlash to Christian’s designs.
The ‘New Look’
After World War II, Paris was reestablished as the center of the fashion world and the women’s dress was revolutionized by ‘The New Look.' In 1940s, fashion industries and the production of haute couture were severely impacted, as during that time dressmaking and fabric supply had been rationed. As more and more women went to work in the factories, the women’s wear became almost totally utilitarian in Britain.
(The above picture shows the working women’s wear of early 40s)
The ‘New Look’ was influenced by rationing and war and was the complete rejection of everything. The major shift in the post-war fashion in the late forties was ‘The New Look.' The lavish designs of Christian were denounced in Britain. To create the structured jackets, there were the multiple layers of lining, embellishment and the petticoats and meters and meters was taken by each skirt (Geoffrey Gareth & Véronique Pouillard, 2009, pp. 809). The new world that was threatened to be created by the war was rejected by these designs. The fashion clock was wounded back in particular to the work of Charles Frederick Worth and to the late nineteenth century by the femininity, glamour and silhouette of the collection. Through complex internal tailoring and boning, shape and structure were given to the ‘New Look’ by the influence of Worth, which was particularly evident in the use of the construction methods and the haute couture techniques.
The decade that followed the release of the ‘New Look,' the Christian’s designs were massively influential in it. His designs were spread all over the world, licensed to major stores, and were copied by home seamstresses and dressmakers and other designers. By the year 1948, the New Look worked its seductive charms and corsets and crinolines were worldwide. ‘Huit’ and ‘Corolle’ were the two lines of this 1974 summer/spring collection. Soft shoulders, waspy waists, and full-skirts were the key elements of this particular signature style. One of the iconic dresses from the collection was the ‘Bar Suit,' which encompassed the central themes of the style.
(The above picture is the ‘Bar Suit’).
The feminine body was delicately displayed by this suit. However the perfect touch of structure was added by the tailored jacket. The ‘New Look’ silhouette of rounded shoulders, breasts pushed out and up, broad hips, and small waist was referred to the style of the 50s. The ‘New Look’ of Christian was a revival rather than innovation. It was a most reviving fuss which was stirred up by him when the decline of French couture was hinted by the fashion business, which was a precise gray moment. To make women eyelash-battingly, romantically and extravagantly female, the ‘New Look’ was a direct unblushing plan of Christian.
In his ‘New Look’ collection, he named the pieces after the delicate whorl of petals at a flower’s center. Through ‘New Look’, war-wilted women were ready to blossom again after years of privatizations of clothing coupons, hoarding food and forsaking stocking. The slow-germinating yearnings of women were drawn to the surface through the introduction of the ‘New Look.' The ‘New Look’ paved the way for fashion as art and was a fabulous part of fashion history. Even today, the iconic Bar Suit is clearly evident on some catwalks. An almost caricature body shape is created by the striking silhouette of tiny waists with emphasis on the hourglass. Among formal wear, the trademark evening dress of Christian from the ‘New Look’ period has become a staple style.
Christian’s Decade of Work before his Untimely Death
- In year 1905, Christian was born to Madeleine Martin and Alexandre Louis Maurice Dior in the seaside town of Granville, which was a fashionable resort town in Normandy. He was the son of a wealthy fertilizer manufacturer. To make his own pocket money, Christian began to sell his sketches on the street as he was artistically inclined, although his parents had hopes of him becoming a diplomat. A small art gallery was acquired by Christian through his father where work by artists was sold. However, he was forced to close his art gallery as his father’s business collapsed due to the Great Depression in 1929. Until Christian was called up for military service in year 1940 he started working with Robert Piguet, who was a fashion designer.
- He began working for couturier Lucian Long at the end of his service in year 1942. Pierre Balmain and Christian were the primary designers. Lelong used to design dresses for French collaborators and wives of Nazi as a way of preserving the fashion industry throughout the conflict for both artistic and economic reasons.
- In year 1939, Amphora dresses were designed by Christian that featured rounded hips. He also created costumes for the theater. However, he was assigned to farm duty and was drafted into the engineer corps of the army as the World War II erupted.
- In year 1946, Christian founded the house of Christian Dior. Marcel Boussac financed the house of Dior, who himself was a cotton-fabric magnate. This newest house was a Paris sensation. Christian showed his first collection in year 1947.
(The above picture displays the Dior’s House Models).
- Christian showed his debut collection in year 1947 on 12th February in which he presented the ninety different looks. ‘The New Look’ was quickly christened by the lines ‘Huit’ and ‘Corolle.' Fuller bust, a cinched waist, full skirt and calf-length were comprised by the look which was since the turn of the century. However, some criticisms were received by the look upon its release. The opulence of Christian’s designs helped Paris in re-establishing itself as the joyful fashion capital and contrasted with the grim post-war reality of Europe.
- Profile of Christian was significantly raised as the house was inundated with orders from world-famous stars, like, Margot Fonteyn and Rita Hayworth. For the British royal family, Christian was invited to stage to give a private presentation of the collection. Christian was known to be very superstitious as before consulting his tarot card reader, he never began a couture show. Christian was condemned by sportswear-loving anti-New Look groups and was celebrated with the prestigious Neiman Marcus Award on his first trip to the United States.
- In year 1948, a luxury ready-to-wear house was established by Christian in New York. Dior Parfums were launched within the same year and the following year, the Diorama was launched.
- Licensed production of designs was firstly arranged by Christian in year 1949. He licensed his name to a range of luxury accessories together with his business partner, Jacques Rouet. His brand name spread quickly around the globe, like perfume, ties, stockings, furs, lingerie, hosiery, handbags, jewelry, gloves, and scarves were also manufactured in his regional centers worldwide (Uch, 2007). However, the French Chamber of Couture heavily criticized his move of licensed production.
- In year 1952, Christian showed off his hat collection. To complete his looks, he collaborated with Roger Vivier on exquisite shoes.
- In year 1957, Christian suffered a fatal heart attack at a health spa in Montecatini, Italy. His funeral was attended by around 2,500 people. In the last 10 years of his tumultuous and relatively brief life, he accomplished most of his success and dictated purely European style. A theme was maintained by each of his collections that include, the Y, A and H lines, the ballerina skirt and the classic suit which ruled the early 1950s.
The Approach of Christian Dior
Christian was particular fond of the 1930s version of femininity in fashion; therefore, he wanted to embrace more feminine styles in 1940s. The approach of Christian towards his designs was equally pragmatic. He became the most successful fashion designer in the world through his resulting success based on the innovation of both his business practices and designs. His designs have been worn by royalty and film stars. Beautifying rather than adorning is the ultimate function of couture was the main belief of Christian. He wanted women to looks like flowers and in his mind he thought that he had a responsibility to bring fashion to women.
His dresses were accepted by most society people due to the perfect looks and the subversive designing. Christian made new lines to continue his clothes after every six months as he did want return to the old fashion again and believed that his new fashion will be popular by women. He drew wide skirts such as the corolla, fine waists such as liana, flowering busts, soft shoulders, and women-flowers (Terry & Susie Rushton, 2008). He wanted his dresses to be modeled and constructed upon the curves of the feminine body. The woman’s body was entirely scaffolded by dresses designed by Christian. According to him, dress in constructed according to the fabric grain and the secret of couture is the fabric grain. He won many appreciators through this approach of him to fashion design.
The Strengths and Weaknesses of Christian Dior as a Designer
In post war-time when women had been used to boxier and shorter skirts, that had their roots in the war-time rationing of fabric, Christian was known for his extravagance in women’s wear. He rapidly became popular through the commercial success of his post-war designs. He continued to run his successful fashion house until his sudden death. Today, the House of Dior has expanded beyond women’s wear and involves fragrances, beauty products, jewelry, accessories and also the menswear. The accessory line of Dior includes scarves, hats, belts and eyewear. Shoes and handbags are also featured by Dior.
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Jones, Terry, and Susie Rushton, eds. Fashion now 2. Taschen, 2008. Retrieved from: http://llrc.mcast.edu.mt/digitalversion/Table_of_Contents_133374.pdf
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