Christian Dior

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Christian Dior
Stamps of Romania, 2005-002.jpg
Christian Dior on a 2005 Romanian stamp
Born(1905-01-21)21 January 1905
Granville, France
Died24 October 1957(1957-10-24) (aged 52)
Cause of death Heart attack
Resting placeCimetière de Callian, Callian, Departement du Var, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France [1]
Alma materSciences Po
Christian Dior
Parent(s) Maurice Dior
Madeleine Martin
Relatives Catherine Dior (sister)
Françoise Dior (niece)

Christian Dior (French pronunciation:  [kʁistjɑ̃ djɔːʁ] ; 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, also called Christian Dior, which is now owned by Groupe Arnault. His fashion houses are now all around the world.

Bernard Arnault French business tycoon

Bernard Jean Étienne Arnault is a French business magnate, investor, and art collector. Arnault is the Chairman and Chief Executive of LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton SE, commonly referred to as LVMH, the world's largest luxury-goods company. He is the richest person in Europe and the second-richest person in the world according to Forbes magazine, with a net worth of $103.7 billion, as of June 2019. In April 2018, he became the richest person in fashion, toppling Zara's Amancio Ortega.


Early life

The Christian Dior Home and Museum in Granville (Manche), France Granville - Maison et Musee de Dior.jpg
The Christian Dior Home and Museum in Granville (Manche), 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. [2] When Christian was about five years old, the family moved to Paris, but still returned to the Normandy coast for summer holidays.

Alexandre Louis Maurice Dior was a French industrialist and the father of grand couturier Christian Dior and French Resistance member Catherine Dior.

Marie Madeleine Juliette Martin, was the wife of the industrialist Maurice Dior. She was also the mother of the grand couturier Christian Dior and the French Resistance member Catherine Dior.

Françoise Dior French socialite

Marie Françoise Suzanne Dior, best known as Françoise Dior, was a French socialite and post-war Nazi underground financier. She was a close friend of Savitri Devi and niece of French fashion designer Christian Dior and Catherine Dior; Catherine was deported to the Ravensbrück women's concentration camp for her anti-Nazi intelligence work, and later publicly distanced herself from her niece.

Dior's family had hoped he would become a diplomat, but Dior was artistic and wished to be involved in art. [3] 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.

Pablo Picasso 20th-century Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer

Pablo Ruiz Picasso was a Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, stage designer, poet and playwright who spent most of his adult life in France. Regarded as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, he is known for co-founding the Cubist movement, the invention of constructed sculpture, the co-invention of collage, and for the wide variety of styles that he helped develop and explore. Among his most famous works are the proto-Cubist Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907), and Guernica (1937), a dramatic portrayal of the bombing of Guernica by the German and Italian airforces during the Spanish Civil War.

Great Depression 20th-century worldwide economic depression

The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression that took place mostly during the 1930s, beginning in the United States. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations; in most countries it started in 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s. It was the longest, deepest, and most widespread depression of the 20th century. In the 21st century, the Great Depression is commonly used as an example of how intensely the world's economy can decline.

From 1937, Dior was employed by the fashion designer Robert Piguet, who gave him the opportunity to design for three Piguet collections. [4] [5] Dior would later say that 'Robert Piguet taught me the virtues of simplicity through which true elegance must come.' [6] [7] One of his original designs for Piguet, a day dress with a short, full skirt called "Cafe Anglais", was particularly well received. [4] [5] 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. [5] Dior left Piguet when he was called up for military service.

Robert Piguet French fashion designer

Robert Piguet was a Swiss-born, Paris-based fashion designer who is mainly remembered for training Christian Dior and Hubert de Givenchy. The Piguet fashion house ran from 1933 to 1951; since then, the brand Robert Piguet has been associated exclusively with fragrances.

Pierre Balmain French fashion designer

Pierre Alexandre Claudius Balmain was a French fashion designer and founder of leading post-war fashion house Balmain. Known for sophistication and elegance, he described the art of dressmaking as "the architecture of movement."

Marc Bohan couturier, worked for Dior (1958-1989)

Marc Roger Maurice Louis Bohan is a French fashion designer, best known for his 30-year career at the house of Dior.

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. [8] [9] 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. [10]

Lucien Lelong French fashion designer

Lucien Lelong was a French couturier who was prominent from the 1920s to the 1940s.

Jean Patou French fashion designer

Jean Patou was a French fashion designer and founder of the Jean Patou brand.

Jeanne Lanvin French fashion designer

Jeanne-Marie Lanvin was a French haute couture fashion designer. She founded the Lanvin fashion house and the beauty and perfume company Lanvin Parfums.

The Dior fashion house

The famous "Bar Suit" on display at the Denver Art Museum in 2019. Dior denver art1.jpg
The famous "Bar Suit" on display at the Denver Art Museum in 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. [11] Dior refused, wishing to make a fresh start under his own name rather than reviving an old brand. [12] 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, [13] 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 . 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. [14] He was a master at creating shapes and silhouettes; Dior is quoted as saying "I have designed flower women." 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.

Marcel Boussac was a French entrepreneur best known for his ownership of the Maison Dior and one of the most successful thoroughbred race horse breeding farms in European history.

Philippe et Gaston was a Paris couture house established in 1922. It rapidly became a prestigious establishment. In 1926 it was ranked alongside Chanel, Madeleine Vionnet and Jeanne Lanvin as a notable French fashion house. By 1931, it was well-known enough to rate a mention in Bruno Jasieński's 1931 play The Ball of the Mannequins. However, by 1946, the house was in need of resurrection. That year, the French textile baron, entrepreneur, and one of France's richest men, Marcel Boussac invited Christian Dior to become head designer for Philippe et Gaston and rejuvenate the brand. Dior declined, as he wanted to launch his own label under his own terms, rather than resurrect an "old-fashioned and rundown house." Boussac and Dior subsequently launched Christian Dior S. A.

Carmel Snow, born Carmel White, named after Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Was the editor-in-chief of the American edition of Harper's Bazaar from 1934 to 1958; she also served as the chair of that magazine's editorial board. She was famously quoted as saying, "Elegance is good taste, plus a dash of daring".

Initially, women protested because his designs covered up their legs, which they had been unused to because of the previous limitations on fabric. There was also some backlash to Dior's designs due to the amount of fabrics used in a single dress or suit. Of the “New Look”, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel said the following, “Look how ridiculous these women are, wearing clothes by a man who doesn’t know women, never had one, and dreams of being one.” 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. The "New Look" revolutionized women's dress and reestablished Paris as the centre of the fashion world after World War II. [15]


Christian Dior died while on holiday in Montecatini, Italy, on 24 October 1957. [16] Some reports say that he died of a heart attack after choking on a fish bone. [17] Time's obituary stated that he died of a heart attack after playing a game of cards. [18] However, one of Dior's acquaintances, the Paris socialite Baron de Redé, wrote in his memoirs that contemporary rumor was that the heart attack had been caused by a strenuous sexual encounter. [19] As of 2019, the exact circumstances of Dior's death remain undisclosed.

Awards and honors

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). [20]

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. [21]


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".

In the song "Rainbow High" from the film Evita, Eva Perón sings "I came from the people. They need to adore me. So Christian Dior me. From my head to my toes"

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" [22]

In 2017, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris organised a retrospective ‘Christian Dior: Couturier du Rêve’. [23]

In 2019, The V&A, London organised a retrospective Designer of Dreams’ The exhibition included over 200 rare Haute Couture garments taken from the V & A's couture collection and from the extensive Dior archives as well as accessories, fashion photography, films, vintage fragrances, illustrations, magazines and personal objects of Christian Dior [24]

See also

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  1. Var: Côte d'Azur, Verdon, by Dominique Auzias, Jean-Paul Labourdette, Nouvelles éditions de l'Université, Jan 1, 2010, pg 150
  2. Pochna, M-F. (1996). Christian Dior: The Man Who Made the World Look New p. 5, Arcade Publishing. ISBN   1-55970-340-7.
  3. 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   1559703407.
  4. 1 2 Marly, Diana de (1990). Christian Dior. London: B.T. Batsford. p. 12. ISBN   9780713464535. Dior designed three collections while at Piguet's, and the most famous dress he created then was the Cafe Anglais...
  5. 1 2 3 Pochna, Marie-France (1996). Christian Dior : the man who made the world look new. Joanna Savill (trans.) (1st English language ed.). New York: Arcade Pub. pp. 62, 72, 74, 80, 102. ISBN   9781559703406.
  6. Grainger, Nathalie (2010). Quintessentially perfume. London: Quintessentially Pub. Ltd. p. 125. ISBN   9780955827068.
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  8. Jayne Sheridan, Fashion, Media, Promotion: The New Black Magic (John Wiley & Sons, 2010), p. 44.
  9. 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).
  10. 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.
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  12. Pochna, Marie-France; Savill, Joanna (translator) (1996). Christian Dior : the man who made the world look new (1st English language ed.). New York: Arcade Pub. pp. 90–92. ISBN   9781559703406.
  13. Company History at Dior's website Archived 7 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  14. Grant, L. (22 September 2007). "Light at the end of the tunnel". The Guardian, Life & Style. London. Retrieved 11 November 2013.
  15. "Christian Dior - Fashionsizzle". Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  16. In french : Grunebaum, Karine (30 January 2013). ""J'ai vu mourir Christian Dior" par Francis Huster". Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  17. Waldman, Hb (November 1979). "Christian Dior". Design Museum, Dental student. 58 (3): 58–60. ISSN   0011-877X. PMID   399225 . Retrieved 11 November 2013.
  18. "Time news". TIME. 4 November 1957. Retrieved 7 March 2008.
  19. von Rosenberg, Alexis (2005). Hugo Vickers (ed.). Alexis: The Memoirs of the Baron de Redé. Estate of the late Baron de Redé. ISBN   9781904349037.
  20. "1967 Film British Costume Design - Colour | BAFTA Awards". Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  21. "Awards - Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma". Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  22. Kim, Soo-Young (18 June 2013). "The Complete History of Kanye West's Brand References in Lyrics". Complex . Retrieved 7 June 2016.
  23. Le Monde Vogue

Further reading