Christian Dior

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Christian Dior
Christian Dior 1954.jpg
Dior in 1954
Born(1905-01-21)21 January 1905
Granville, France
Died24 October 1957(1957-10-24) (aged 52)
Resting placeCimetière de Callian, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France[1]
Alma materSciences Po
Christian Dior

Christian Ernest Dior (French: [kʁistjɑ̃ djɔʁ]; 21 January 1905 – 24 October 1957) was a French fashion designer, best known as the founder of one of the world's top fashion houses, Christian Dior SE, which is now owned by parent company LVMH. His fashion houses are known all around the world, specifically "on five continents in only a decade" (Sauer[2]). He was the second child of a family of seven, born to Maurice Dior and Madeleine Martin, in the town of Granville.

Dior's artistic skills led to his employment and design for various well-known fashion icons in attempts to preserve the fashion industry during World War II. Post-war, he founded and established the Dior fashion house, with his collection of the "New Look" revolutionising women's dress and contributing to the reestablishment of Paris as the centre of the fashion world.

Throughout his lifetime, he won numerous awards for Best Costume Design. Upon his death in 1957, various contemporary icons paid tribute to his life and work.

Early life[edit]

The Christian Dior Home and Museum in Granville, France

Christian Dior was born in Granville, a seaside town on the coast of Normandy, France. He was the second of five children born to Maurice Dior, a wealthy fertilizer manufacturer (the family firm was Dior Frères), and his wife, formerly Madeleine Martin. He had four siblings: Raymond (father of Françoise Dior), Jacqueline, Bernard, and Catherine Dior.[3] When Christian was about five years old, the family moved to Paris, but still returned to the Normandy coast for summer holidays.

Dior's family had hoped he would become a diplomat, but Dior was artistic and wished to be involved in art.[4] To make money, he sold his fashion sketches outside his house for about 10 cents each. In 1928, Dior left school and received money from his father to finance a small art gallery, where he and a friend sold art by the likes of Pablo Picasso. The gallery was closed three years later, following the deaths of Dior's mother and brother, as well as financial trouble during the Great Depression that resulted in his father losing control of the family business.

From 1937, Dior was employed by the fashion designer Robert Piguet, who gave him the opportunity to design for three Piguet collections.[5][6] Dior would later say that "Robert Piguet taught me the virtues of simplicity through which true elegance must come."[7][8] One of his original designs for Piguet, a day dress with a short, full skirt called "Cafe Anglais", was particularly well received.[5][6] Whilst at Piguet, Dior worked alongside Pierre Balmain, and was succeeded as house designer by Marc Bohan – who would, in 1960, become head of design for Christian Dior Paris.[6] Dior left Piguet when he was called up for military service.

In 1942, when Dior left the army, he joined the fashion house of Lucien Lelong, where he and Balmain were the primary designers. For the duration of World War II, Dior, as an employee of Lelong – who labored to preserve the French fashion industry during wartime for economic and artistic reasons - designed dresses for the wives of Nazi officers and French collaborators, as did other fashion houses that remained in business during the war, including Jean Patou, Jeanne Lanvin, and Nina Ricci.[9][10] His sister, Catherine (1917–2008), served as a member of the French Resistance, was captured by the Gestapo, and sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp, where she was incarcerated until her liberation in May 1945.[11] In 1947, he named his debut fragrance, Miss Dior in tribute to his sister.

The Dior fashion house[edit]

The famous "Bar Suit" on display at the Denver Art Museum (2019).

In 1946, Marcel Boussac, a successful entrepreneur known as the richest man in France, invited Dior to design for Philippe et Gaston, a Paris fashion house launched in 1925.[12] Dior refused, wishing to make a fresh start under his own name rather than reviving an old brand.[13] On 8 December 1946, with Boussac's backing, Dior founded his fashion house. The actual name of the line of his first collection, presented on 12 February 1947,[14] was Corolle (literally the botanical term corolla or circlet of flower petals in English), but the phrase New Look was coined for it by Carmel Snow, the editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar. Despite being called "New", it was clearly drawn from styles of the Edwardian era[15][16] and it merely refined and crystallized trends in skirt shape and waistline that had been burgeoning in high fashion since the late 1930s.[17][18] Nonetheless, Dior's designs were more voluptuous than the boxy, fabric-conserving shapes of the recent World War II styles, influenced by the rations on fabric.[19] He was a master at creating shapes and silhouettes; Dior was quoted as saying: "I have designed flower women."[citation needed] His look employed fabrics lined predominantly 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.[citation needed]

Initially, women protested because his designs covered up their legs, which they had been unused to because of the previous limitations on fabric. Some of the backlash to Dior's designs was also due to the amount of fabric used in a single dress or suit. Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel said of the "New Look": "Look how ridiculous these women are, wearing clothes by a man who doesn't know women, never had one, and dreams of being one."[citation needed] During one photo shoot in a Paris market, the models were attacked by female vendors over this profligacy, but opposition ceased as the wartime shortages ended.[citation needed]

The "New Look" revolutionized women's dress and reestablished Paris as the centre of the fashion world after World War II,[20][21] as well as making Dior a virtual arbiter of fashion for much of the following decade,[22] each season featuring a newly titled Dior "line", in the manner of 1947's "Corolle" line, that would then be trumpeted in the fashion press: the Envol and Cyclone/Zigzag lines in 1948; the Trompe l'Oeil and Mid-Century lines in 1949; the Vertical and Oblique lines in 1950; the Naturelle/Princesse and Longue lines in 1951; the Sinueuse and Profilėe lines in 1952; the Tulipe and Vivante lines in 1953; the Muguet/Lily of the Valley line and H-Line in 1954; the A-Line and Y-Line in 1955; the Flèche/Arrow and Aimant/Magnet lines in 1956; and the Libre/Free and Fuseau/Spindle lines in 1957,[23][24] followed by successor Yves Saint Laurent's Trapeze line in 1958.[25][26]

In 1955, the 19-year-old Yves Saint Laurent became Dior's design assistant. Christian Dior later met with Yves Saint Laurent's mother, Lucienne Mathieu-Saint Laurent, in 1957, to tell her that he had chosen Saint Laurent to succeed him at Dior. She said at the time she had been confused by the remark, as Dior was only 52 at the time.[27]


Christian Dior died of a sudden heart attack while on vacation in Montecatini, Italy, on 24 October 1957 in the late afternoon while playing a game of cards.[28][29]

Awards and honors[edit]

Dior was nominated for the 1955 Academy Award for Best Costume Design in black and white for the Terminal Station directed by Vittorio De Sica (1953).

Dior was also nominated in 1967 for a BAFTA for Best British Costume (Colour) for the Arabesque directed by Stanley Donen (1966).[30]

Nominated in 1986 for his contributions to the 1985 film, Bras de fer, he was up for Best Costume Design (Meilleurs costumes) during the 11th Cesar Awards.[31]

Dior on a Romanian stamp (2005)


The Paul Gallico novella Mrs 'Arris Goes to Paris (1958, UK title Flowers for Mrs Harris) tells the story of a London charwoman who falls in love with her employer's couture wardrobe and decides to go to Paris to purchase herself a Dior ballgown.

A perfume named Christian Dior is used in Haruki Murakami's novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle as an influential symbol placed at critical plot points throughout.

The English singer-songwriter Morrissey released a song titled "Christian Dior" as a B-side to his 2006 single "In the Future When All's Well".

Kanye West released a song titled "Christian Dior Denim Flow" in 2010. West mentioned the Dior brand in three other songs: "Devil in a New Dress", "Stronger", and "Barry Bonds"[32]

The late American rapper Pop Smoke released a song titled Dior in July 2019. Pop Smoke also mentioned the Dior brand in other songs, including Enjoy Yourself: "Shopping up in Saks Fifth with a cup of Actavis to get Christian Dior; Look, I be all up in the stores (Oh, oh)."[33]

In 2016, book publisher Assouline introduced an ongoing series devoted to each designer of the couture house of Dior. This series is the ultimate compendium of the most memorable haute couture creations conceived by the renowned house, beginning with its inception to its present-day collections.

Published titles include Dior by Christian Dior,[34] Dior by YSL,[35] Dior by Marc Bohan,[36] and Dior by Gianfranco Ferre.[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Var: Côte d'Azur, Verdon, by Dominique Auzias, Jean-Paul Labourdette, Nouvelles éditions de l'Université, 1 January 2010, pg 150
  2. ^ "The History of the House of Dior". 20 November 2018.
  3. ^ Pochna, M-F. (1996). Christian Dior: The Man Who Made the World Look New p. 5, Arcade Publishing. ISBN 1-55970-340-7.
  4. ^ Pochna, Marie-France (1996). Christian Dior: The Man Who Made the World Look New (1st English language ed.). New York: Arcade Pub. p. 207. ISBN 1-55970-340-7.
  5. ^ a b Marly, Diana de (1990). Christian Dior. London: B.T. Batsford. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-7134-6453-5. Dior designed three collections while at Piguet's, and the most famous dress he created then was the Cafe Anglais
  6. ^ a b c Pochna, Marie-France (1996). Christian Dior: The Man Who Made the World Look New. Translated by Savill, Joanna (1st English language ed.). New York: Arcade Pub. pp. 62, 72, 74, 80, 102. ISBN 978-1-55970-340-6. Robert Piguet.
  7. ^ Grainger, Nathalie (2010). Quintessentially Perfume. London: Quintessentially Pub. Ltd. p. 125. ISBN 978-0-9558270-6-8.
  8. ^ Picken, Mary Brooks; Dora Loues Miller (1956). Dressmakers of France: The Who, How, and why of the French Couture. Harper. p. 105.
  9. ^ Jayne Sheridan, Fashion, Media, Promotion: The New Black Magic (John Wiley & Sons, 2010), p. 44.
  10. ^ Yuniya Kawamura, The Japanese Revolution in Fashion (Berg Publishers, 2004), page 46. As quoted in the book, Lelong was a leading force in keeping the French fashion industry from being forcibly moved to Berlin, arguing, "You can impose anything upon us by force, but Paris couture cannot be uprooted, neither as a whole or in any part. Either it stays in Paris, or it does not exist. It is not within the power of any nation to steal fashion creativity, for not only does it function quite spontaneously, also it is the product of a tradition maintained by a large body of skilled men and women in a variety of crafts and trades." Kawamura explains that the survival of the French fashion industry was critical to the survival of France, stating, "Export of a single dress by a leading couturier enabled the country to buy ten tons of coal, and a liter of perfume was worth two tons of petrol" (page 46).
  11. ^ Sereny, Gitta (2002). The Healing Wound: Experiences and Reflections, Germany, 1938–2001. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 15–16. ISBN 0-393-04428-9.
  12. ^ Palmer, Alexandra (Spring 2010). "Dior's Scandalous New Look". ROM Magazine. Royal Ontario Museum. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
  13. ^ Pochna, Marie-France (1996). Christian Dior: The Man Who Made the World Look New. Translated by Savill, Joanna (1st English language ed.). New York: Arcade Pub. pp. 90–92. ISBN 978-1-55970-340-6.
  14. ^ Company History at Dior's website Archived 7 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Morris, Bernadine (29 July 1976). "A Revolutionary Saint Laurent Showing". The New York Times: 65. Retrieved 16 March 2022. [T]he collection Christian Dior showed in 1947 ... was Edwardian
  16. ^ Mulvagh, Jane (1988). "1946-1956". Vogue History of 20th Century Fashion. London, England: Viking, the Penguin Group. pp. 180–181. ISBN 0-670-80172-0. Dior's New Look was still relying on old-fashioned underpinnings like boned corsetry ... Fashion ... reviv[ed] the mock-Edwardian style first presented in the late thirties. ... [Dior's] tighter waists, longer, fuller skirts and more pronounced hips were in fact the maximization of an old style
  17. ^ Mulvagh, Jane (1988). "1947". Vogue History of 20th Century Fashion. London, England: Viking, the Penguin Group. p. 194. ISBN 0-670-80172-0. [T]he trend towards longer skirts, smaller waists and feminine lines had begun in the late thirties and was seen in America in the early forties; hence Dior was not the originator of this mode, but its rejuvenator and popularist.
  18. ^ Cunningham, Bill (1 March 1988). "Fashionating Rhythm". Details. New York, NY: Details Publishing Corp. VI (8): 121. ISSN 0740-4921. Each of the major fashion changes that mark a season is the result of a series of creative designers adding essential elements to the overall picture. The eventual credit for the genius is often given to the designer who articulated the look with commercial success, such as Dior achieved with his 1947 New Look, although it had been seen in small prototypes at Balenciaga in the early Forties and at other Paris houses just before the war.
  19. ^ Grant, L. (22 September 2007). "Light at the end of the tunnel". The Guardian, Life & Style. London. Retrieved 11 November 2013.
  20. ^ Morris, Bernadine (14 April 1981). "How Paris Kept Position in Fashion". The New York Times: B19. Retrieved 4 April 2022. Dior's bombshell brought manufacturers as well as store buyers rushing back to the City of Light as they sought to interpret his inspirational designs for their own clients....Throughout the 1950's, Paris was acclaimed as the source of fashion, and Dior's success helped stave off the development of other independent style centers for at least a decade.
  21. ^ "Christian Dior – Fashionsizzle". 12 January 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  22. ^ Howell, Georgina (1978). "1948-1959". In Vogue: Sixty Years of Celebrities and Fashion from British Vogue. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd. p. 204. ISBN 0-14-004955-X. Women obeyed Paris because of Christian Dior.
  23. ^ Howell, Georgina (1978). "1947, 1948-1959". In Vogue: Sixty Years of Celebrities and Fashion from British Vogue. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd. pp. 198, 204, 221–245. ISBN 0-14-004955-X. page range covering mention of Dior line names
  24. ^ Mulvagh, Jane (1988). "1946-1956". Vogue History of 20th Century Fashion. London, England: Viking, The Penguin Group. pp. 194–248. ISBN 0-670-80172-0. page range covering mention of Dior line names
  25. ^ Howell, Georgina (1978). "1958". In Vogue: Sixty Years of Celebrities and Fashion from British Vogue. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd. p. 246. ISBN 0-14-004955-X.
  26. ^ Mulvagh, Jane (1988). "1958". Vogue History of 20th Century Fashion. London, England: Viking, The Penguin Group. pp. 251–252. ISBN 0-670-80172-0.
  27. ^ "Christian Dior". British Vogue. 5 April 2012. Retrieved 4 June 2020.
  28. ^ "Died. Christian Dior, 52". Time. 4 November 1957. Archived from the original on 12 October 2007. Retrieved 7 March 2008.
  29. ^ In French: Grunebaum, Karine (30 January 2013). ""J'ai vu mourir Christian Dior" par Francis Huster". Archived from the original on 18 November 2016. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  30. ^ "1967 Film British Costume Design – Colour | BAFTA Awards". Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  31. ^ "Awards – Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma". Archived from the original on 18 October 2014. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  32. ^ Kim, Soo-Young (18 June 2013). "The Complete History of Kanye West's Brand References in Lyrics". Complex. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
  33. ^ Pop Smoke (Ft. KAROL G) – Enjoy Yourself, retrieved 24 January 2021
  34. ^ Saillard, Olivier (2016). Dior by Christian Dior. New York, USA: Assouline. p. 504.
  35. ^ Benaim, Laurence (2017). Dior by YSL. New York, USA: Assouline. p. 300.
  36. ^ Hanover, Jerome (2018). Dior by Marc Bohan. New York, USA: Assouline. p. 496.
  37. ^ Fury, Alexander (2019). Dior by Gianfranco Ferre. New York, USA: Assouline. p. 320.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]