70 years of Dior
“Don’t buy much but make sure that what you buy is good.” – Christian Dior
This year marks the 70th anniversary of Dior. The brand has a storied past, ever since it stormed the fashion scene in 1947 with Christian’s earliest collection. Voluminous flowing skirts, evocative cinched waists and curved contours created waves in Paris and internationally, setting in motion Dior’s future as a brand synonymous with couture, the embrace of fantasy, romance and above all the feminine.
THE NEW LOOK
Frenchman Christian Dior launched his clothing brand in Paris at the age of 42, his debut collection was to create such a stir it would go down in fashion history. Amidst those witnessing the launch, was Carmel Snow, editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar, who exclaimed, “It’s quite a revolution dear Christian. It’s such a New Look!”
The New Look was a huge departure from the trends which had been presiding at the time. Embraced by many women, the style was a celebration of the feminine and the lighter side of life – a welcome respite from the solemnity and restrictions of wartime. The New Look was not without its detractors, however – the amount of padding, corseting and heavy fabric required to create the desired look meant wearing the dresses could be impractical and restricting. Chanel herself was quoted as remarking “Only a man who never was intimate with a woman could design something that uncomfortable.” The style found dissonance with feminists who felt it had been designed solely to look attractive, with little concern paid to how it would be functional in real women’s lives. With wartime fabric rationings still in place, the voluminous skirts were also seen by some as wasteful and unaffordable for the average woman.
Despite the contention, Christian quickly attracted an international following of well-known female figures which included Princess Margaret, Marlene Dietrich, Lauren Bacall. Dior is quoted as saying, “We were emerging from the period of war, of uniforms, of women soldiers built like boxers. I drew women-flowers, soft shoulders, fine waists like liana and wide skirts like the corolla.” He wanted to design what he called ‘Flower Women’, and whatever practical drawbacks the dresses had the designs were admired by many.
AN EVOLVING BRAND
Along with creating an iconic fashion look which was to go down in the pages of fashion history, Dior was reinvigorating revenue opportunities for couture fashion houses of the time. It felt natural to Christian to offer shoes, gloves, and accessories, including perfumes, that would complete his image of the New Look. In 1950 Dior became the first fashion house to place the name ‘Christian Dior’ on luxury goods. A move originally seen as distasteful by members of the French Chamber of Couture, it quickly picked up popularity within all couture establishments and became the norm.
SUCCESSORS & A NEW ERA OF FEMININITY
Christian’s reign at the helm of Dior left a long lasting impression but was relatively short lived. Since his death in 1957 Dior has seen 7 successors – most recently Maria Grazia Chiuri – appointed July last year as the fashion house’s first female artistic director.
Each of the successors has brought their individual fashion sensibilities while paying homage to the brand’s early beginnings – from the classic bar coat with modern styling waltzing down the runway, or the wasp waist appearing through kimono inspired styling.
Like her predecessors, Maria’s collections thus far have referenced the brand’s past designers as well as Christian’s distinct silhouettes. However, as a whole, they’ve been much more forward looking. In an interview with Vogue earlier this year Maria stated “Of course our heritage is important, but I also want to move this house forward. My vision is something that is easier to wear. I want to think of women and how they dress, how they mix high and low, so you can have a Bar jacket but with jeans, a beautiful dress but with a leather jacket.”
Viewing the new collections, particular the couture designs, it would appear that Maria has the same value of story and fantasy as Christian and his successor, but is clearly reimagining femininity for a modern audience. “We have to understand that it’s possible to use the past in a modern way for modern women.” “The message, really, is that there is not one kind of woman.”
70 years of Dior
As part of celebrations for the fashion house’s 70th anniversary, Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris will host its largest ever fashion exhibition, devoted to Dior, in all its iterations. Alongside the haute couture dresses the house is so famed for, will be items from the accessories ranges through the decades including bags, shoes, jewelry, hats and perfume bottles. Illustrations, sketches, and photographs will provide context to the designs and brand. More than 300 dresses designed from 1947 to present day will be on display opening during Paris Couture Week in July and run until early January 2018.
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