Born in Granville, Normandy on 21 January 1905, Christian Dior knew from an early age that he did not want to be a diplomat as his wealthy family wanted – art was in his soul and as a young boy he would sketch and draw endlessly.
After a short time as a young man selling art in a gallery funded by his family, Dior moved to studying fashion with an emphasis on hat design. He was called up for a short stint in military service in 1940 before returning to the fashion industry in Paris.
In 1946 he opened his own fashion house at 30, Avenue Montaigne in Paris. His first collection received mixed results. His use of heavy amounts of material was criticised by some in the post war years of frugality but the critics loved the “new look” as his designs were called.
Dior revolutionised the hard and utilitarian look of fashion at that time, his first collection called “Corolle” was inspired by flower shapes and bought joy back to the fashion designs of Paris. His clothes emphasised the feminine shape, they were playful and sophisticated and in the ensuing years the company of Christian Dior went from strength to strength
His clothes were loved by the rich and famous and his designs were sought out around the world. Marlene Dietrich adored his designs and helped to make him a household name when after being chosen to feature in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Stage Fright”, she refused to star in the film unless Christian Dior was hired as costume designer. Her adage, “No Dior, no Dietrich!” has become legendary.
Dior moved into perfumery saying “I feel that I am just as much a perfumer as I am a fashion designer.” His first fragrance was called “Miss Dior”, named for his sister Catherine who had served in the French Resistance during the war – still a best seller to this day. Dior’s designs dictated the style of European fashion – from the ballerina skirt to the classic suit – his influence cannot be underestimated.
Sadly Dior died October 23 1957 just 11 years after he opened his first shop in Paris, leaving behind a world class company that has thrived.
For more on Christian Dior you can visit the Dior Museum at Granville, Normandy in the designer’s family home where you’ll find clothes on display that were designed and worn by the great and the good from Elizabeth Taylor to Princess Grace of Monaco. It is a modest looking home which is rather at odds with his enormous reputation but more in keeping with his quite modest personality. Dior and fashion fans will love the exhibitions and the gardens.