French designer Christian Dior and his ‘New Look’ style
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French designer Christian Dior and his ‘New Look’ style were discovered in the 1940s. The creator sought to make beautiful pieces that women would love.
After the deprivation of the Second World War, Christian Dior’s designs offered a way for women to rediscover their femininity again. This change took place in 1947, at the time of the designer’s first couture show, which shook up the post-war fashion scene.
The phrase ‘New Look’ was coined by Harper’s Magazine editor Carmel Snow to describe the designer’s collection of simple and glamorous outfits. The fashion show, which took place in February 1947, heralded the arrival of Dior’s ‘New Look’ style.
Christian Dior: the most avant-garde French fashion designer
Following an initial stint in 1945 as a fashion designer working under the couturier Robert Piguet – also known as ‘the prince of haute couture’ – the career of Christian Dior took a fateful turn.
It was at this time the designer met and befriended Marcel Boussac, a renowned cotton magnate. Upon noticing the young man’s talent, the businessman agreed to invest in the first Dior couture house.
The year 1946 saw the opening of the designer’s first boutique, located at 30 Avenue Montaigne in Paris.
One year later, Christian Dior, in collaboration with Pierre Cardin, presented his first collection – the ‘Corolla’ line.
With designs featuring waspish waists, bustiers, flared skirts and rounded shoulders, Dior created gorgeous designs in flowing cuts for women. In contrast to the rationed beauty of wartime, Dior’s creations did not skimp on fabric. His creations can be described as completely avant-garde.
The French designer turned his back on practical fashion
During the Second World War, the fashion landscape was filled with ‘practical’ outfits tailored to suit the zeitgeist. Coats were replaced by wide-shouldered jackets while skirts were shortened and cinched at the waist. At this point in history, when it came to fashion, looking feminine was not exactly a priority.
It was not until the end of the Second World War that femininity made a comeback. France quickly got back into the swing of socialising with a revival of high society soirées and cocktail parties, a throwback to the glamour of the Roaring Twenties.
It was thanks to Christian Dior that France began to celebrate femininity once again. Turning away from so-called ‘practical’ fashion, the designer set about creating glamorous outfits for women.
Putting female beauty at the centre of his work and his world, Dior revolutionised fashion with his unique ‘New Look’ style.
Flowing and pleated outfits highlighted women’s silhouettes. Veritable symbols of desire and elegance, the designer’s creations were hugely successful; seducing both fashion critics and French women in equal measure.
The epitome of luxury, elegance and glamour, Dior gave women permission to feel feminine again.
As legend would have it, a palm reader famously told the designer that “women will benefit from you, and it is through them that you will succeed”.
Whether this story is true or not, one thing is certain – Dior’s talent conquered the hearts and minds of women everywhere.
The National Gallery of Victoria pays tribute to the great French designer in a new exhibition running until 28 July 2013.
What, for you, epitomises elegance in fashion? Do you prefer the hyper-femininity of Dior, or a more gamin style?References:
1. La Maison Dior, on Dior’s official website
2. 12 février 1947: naissance du “New Look” au défilé Dior, Broadcast ‘Les Oubliettes du Temps’, 12/02/2013 on France Inter
3. New Look, histoire de la mode, on Encyclopaedia Universalis
4. Book ‘Le New Look, La Révolution Dior’ by Nigel Cawthorne
5. Book ‘Dior: A New Look, a New Enterprise’ (1947-57) by Alexandra Palmer
6. Video “Christian Dior history” Image credits:
1. Mannequin habillée d’une robe New Look vintage Christian Dior, by Gabriel Moginot via Wikipédia
2. “Bar suit” from 1947, Dior’s “New Look”, by Shakko, via Wikipédia
3 & 4. Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images, by Frank Scherchel via life.time.com
5. Marlene Dietrich dans Le Grand Alibi, musee-dior-granville.com