It won’t be imaginable now; a world without Dior. A brand that has given us the “New Look”, great fashion, iconic bags, delicious perfumes, amazing make-up, and so much more. However, Christian Dior had quite some setbacks, it actually took him four decades to became the well-known designer he still is now.
Youth of Christian
Christian Dior was born in 1905 in Granville, a small town on the Normandy coast of France. His family was very wealthy, thanks to their successful fertilizer company. The Dior family moved to Paris in 1910, where Christian grew up. As a boy he was always passionate about art, and actually wanted to become an architect. But his parents valued a good education, and so under a bit of pressure, Christian started his degree in political science. The passion for art never faded, and after graduation in 1928, Christian opened a small art gallery with financial help of his father.
Setbacks before fashion
The 30’s weren’t great for Christian Dior. Following the Great Depression, his brother and mother passed away, his father’s business collapsed, and Christian was forced to close down his art gallery. He sold fashion sketches to haute couture houses to make some money, in 1937 he started working for the fashion designer Robert Piquet. Unfortunately, the start of his fashion career was put on hold by the start of World War II. He was called up for military service in 1940, where he served as an officer. He left the army after serving for two years, and got the opportunity to work for the fashion designer Pierre Balmain as one of the house’s main designers.
When the war ended, France was in ruins, however, this also meant there were opportunities for new (fashion) businesses. A childhood friend of Christian, named Marcel Boussac, was the owner of the clothing company “Phillippe et Gaston”. The business wasn’t doing great after the war and Marcel asked Christian to help him with new designs. This is where Christian Dior finally got the chance to release his very first own collection.
Step into the fashion world
“La Ligne Corolie” is the name of Christian Dior’s first collection, released in 1947. And even though this is the collection that got him world famous, few people know it by this name. Because of the American edition of the magazine “Harper’s Bazaar”, it’s world famous as the “New Look”. The New Look was a big success, it changed the post-World War II fashion scene, and consisted of the finest tailoring combined with luxurious fabrics. Features like rounded shoulder, a cinched waist, and a full A-line skirt were clearly revolutionary in the 40s.
“It’s quite a revolution, dear Christian! Your dresses have such a new look!” – Carmel Snow, former editor-in-chief American edition of “Harper’s Bazaar,” February 12, 1947.
Some of the looks from Christian Dior's first collection known as the "New Look" - by Harpers Bazaar
The instant popularity of the New Look was noticeable with women all over the world. Especially in the US and Europe you could see the strong influences of Dior in the fashion world. Seamstresses would be asked to replicate Dior’s style, but of course for less than the couture price. This is one of the reasons Christian Dior would change his style every year.
Many different styles
Different from his simple and stylish New Look, the Fall collection of 1948 emphasized the neckline and played with embroideries (picture). In 1949, a collection inspired by the Roman mythology was released. Dresses decorated with ombréed petals, sequins, rhinestones, and pearls were seen on the runways. One of the dresses from this collection, called the “Junon”, is still used as an inspiration for a lot of dressmakers these days. The 1950s, again, showed a change in Dior’s style. A collection with streamlined and modest silhouettes, inspired by men’s tuxedos. Another collection with focus on very sharp contours that fitted tight around the body, or one inspired by flowers, with voluptuous dimensions. Dior was elegant, architectural and had endless feminine collections.
A couple of the iconic looks from Christian Dior. From left to right: The "Bar suit" from the New Look collection, the 1948 collection played with embroideries, and the "Junon" dress from the 1949 collection. - by DW
The real change
Although Dior liked to change up the collection. You could always see the “original” Dior, the New Look style. The actual change in his work was seen in the mid-50s. When Christian started working with his new first assistant, Yves Saint Laurent. Dior’s style became minimalistic, inspired by men’s wardrobe, focused on ease, slowly drifting away from the New Look line with boxier cuts. But the classic pieces kept being in high demand.
Fun fact: The House of Dior became the first fashion house to pair different accessories to their clothing collections. They started designing bags, shoes, cosmetics, and perfume.
In only ten years Christian Dior grew to be a leading fashion icon. Next to his great success in the fashion world. On March 4, 1957 Christian Dior even became the first couturier to appear on the cover of “Time” magazine. Unfortunately, Christian didn’t get to enjoy the fashion fame for too long, in 1957 he suddenly died of a heart attack. Luckily, just before his death, he assigned Yves Saint Laurent to be his successor.
Three off the most iconic bags that Dior created over the years; the Lady Dior, Saddle bag, and Pochette - by Etoile
Dior without Christian
The house of Dior continued to be a success, even after the death of Christian Dior. Over the past 60 years Dior has had multiple creative designers all bringing something different to the company, while helping the company grow even bigger every year. The 21-year-old Yves Saint Laurent stayed with Dior for two years until he was conscripted into the army. His successor was Marc Bohan, who worked as Dior’s creative designer for 28 years. Marc Bohan continued to work with the traditional refinement and elegance that Christian Dior started.
The French businessman and art collector, Bernard Arnault, bought the House of Dior in 1984, and Gianfranco Ferré was announced as the new creative director. He designed multiple collections that showed his love for baroque. In 1996 British fashion designer John Galliano was appointed creative director. He previously worked for Givenchy, and at Dior he received praise for his Haute Couture and ready-to-wear collections. However, in 2011 John Galliano was fired from Dior because of his anti-Semitic remarks. His ex-assistant Bill Gaytten took over as interim designer for a short period, before it was decided that Raf Simons would be the new creative designer. Raf Simmons left Dior after a short three years, so he could focus on his own brand.
Photo of the founder of the House of Dior; Christian Dior and the current creative director; Maria Grazia Chiuri - by Fashionboss
For a little over half a year, Dior worked without a creative director, until Italian designer Maria Grazia Chiuri, was appointed in July 2016. Maria Grazia Chiuri started her career at Fendi, and previously also worked at Valentino. She is known for her beautiful embroidered designs, and her dresses can often be seen on the red carpet in Hollywood. In the short time that Maria has been the creative director of Dior, she has already made a big impact on the fashion house, and not only with her fashion.
Maria also uses the runway as her platform to stand for women empowerment and feminism. Her vision is to design trendy fashion compatible with the lifestyle of the modern woman. She sees that every woman is unique and wants to design her fashion around this idea. She stands against the image of fashion being just for women with super thin bodies, and hopes to create fashion that is wearable for every woman, whatever her size!
The House of Couture Christian Dior still is one of the most important leaders in the fashion world. Even with its many different creative directors over the years, one thing stays the same. Dior will keep surprising us with its designs, yet stay delicate, sophisticated and intriguing, always keeping us on the edge of our seats.
Can't wait to find your own amazing Dior item? Check out our collection, and you might find it sooner than you think.
With love, Jessica