Saturday 23 October 2010

Dior’s ring of petals: ‘Flower women’

Christian Dior debuted his first collection, Corelle ~ circlet of flower petals.

“I have designed flower women”

Famed French designer, Christian Dior said  when he launched Corolle

(the French word for the botanical term corolla or circlet of flower petals),

his first collection on 12th February 1947 with voluptuous, soft silhouettes.

beautiful, feminine clothes, soft rounded shapes, full flowing skirts,

nipped-in waists and hemlines below the knee.

He wanted to make women feel like beautiful flowers.

This collection ushered in the New Look. Gone were the boxy, conservative styles of the war period with Dior’s decadent use of corsets and swaths of material reminiscent of the “Belle Epoque”.

Most of the dresses used between 10 to 80 yards of material: They were as wide, long, and sumptuous. Evening dresses were made with bouffant skirts, layer after layer of tulle.

Dior’s New Look of 1947, The Corolle or figure 8 collection and the design called Bar.

Called “Bar,” a shantung silk jacket over a black pleated skirt (above), became the most well-known of Dior’s New Look creations.  Featuring rounded shoulders, a cinched waist, and  long pleated wool full skirt, backed with cambric, it is exceptionally heavy. The New Look celebrated ultra-femininity and opulence in women’s fashion. Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief, Carmel Snow, named Dior’s revolutionary direction, ‘New Look.’

The “Bar” suit and hat: tight fitting jacket with padded hips which emphasized the small waist {Paris 1948}

1948 Janine Klein wearing Diors ‘New Look’. Photos of above two images, Clifford Coffin.

After the war women longed for frivolity in dress and desired feminine clothes that did not look like a civilian version of a military uniform. Evening versions of the New Look were very glamorous and consisted of strapless boned tops with full skirts and were ultra feminine.

The shaped fitted jacket Dior designed with his New Look full skirt was also teamed with a straight mid calf length skirt.  Women usually wore just underwear beneath the buttoned up jacket, or filled in the neckline with a satin foulard head scarf, dickey or bib.

After years of military and civilian uniforms, sartorial restrictions and shortages,

Dior offered not merely a new look but a new outlook.

Ann Sainte-Marie, Christian Dior 1955

Detail of the ‘Bar’ suit jacket (Silk shantung & wool crêpe) by Christian Dior.

The jacket required 3.7 metres of silk shantung and fastened with five hand-stitched buttons.

This information helped Dior to price the design. ‘Bar’ cost 59,000 francs.

Below, the notebook contains a sketch and specifications for the type and quantity of fabric for Dior’s ‘Bar’ suit.

Dior helped to restore a beleaguered postwar Paris as the capital of fashion.

Each of his collections throughout this period had a theme. In all Dior presented 22 collections.

Dior Haute Salon, 1957

Spring 1947 was ‘Carolle’ or ‘figure 8

~ a name that suggested the silhouette of the New Look, comprised of 90 designs.

The spring 1953 collection, dubbed Tulip,

featured an abundance of floaty, flowery prints.

Spring 1955′s A-line,

with its undefined waist and smooth silhouette that widened over the hips and legs, resembled a capital “A.”

1950 Christian Dior evening dress

1954 Christian Dior dress

He was a master at creating shapes and silhouettes; 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. The hemlines were very flattering on the calves and ankles, creating a beautiful silhouette.

Fiona Campbell-Walter wearing Dior’s fishscale evening gown with black velvet bow accent, 1955

The House of Dior attracted glamorous clients including Ava Gardner, Marlene Dietrich, Princess Margaret and the Duchess of Windsor. Rita Hayworth chose an evening gown for the première of her film Gilda; the ballerina Margot Fonteyn bought a suit.

Dior was invited to stage a private presentation of that season’s show for the British royal family, although King George V forbade Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret from wearing the New Look, which he feared would set a bad example at a time when rationing was still in force.

While women all over the world embraced Dior’s “New Look,” many considered it excessive and wasteful.  Models had their clothes torn off and many Governments around the world condemned the collection as extravagant and outrageous. Some of Dior’s skirts used 10 to 25 yards of fabric, after all.

The British Government requested all English women to boycott Dior. However, when Princess Margaret, the leader of British fashion, wore the New Look, the Board of Trade gave up and said, “We cannot dictate to women the length of their skirts.”

Suzy Parker wearing Dior’s white evening gown with matching shawl, 1954

Photo by Philippe Pottier, 1948

Villa Les Rhumbs inspiration & influences

Christian was born in 1905. His childhood home, now a museum dedicated to him, is located in the town of Granville in Normandy on a cliff overlooking the sea. The villa is known as Les Rhumbs (the name came from the rhombus-shaped points of the compass in the mosaic floor of the house).

The beautiful gardens were originally designed by Dior’s mother, Madeleine who spent most of her life cultivating flowers, turning this hobby into a mission, using it to mask the sickening smells coming from her husband’s fertilisizer factory.

The French designer’s love for nature, plants, flowers and designing gardens, was a passion he inherited from his mother, Madeleine. The horticultural endeavours of Madeleine, and Dior’s own gardens at La Colle Noire, his last residence near Grasse, have inspired Dior.

Young Christian learnt the names of plants and flowers during his mother’s conversations with gardeners and from colourful mail-order seed catalogues he found lying around the house.

Acceding to his parents’ wishes, Dior attended the Ecole des Sciences Politiques in Paris to study politics. The family, whose fortune was derived from the manufacture of fertilizer, had hopes he would become a diplomat, but Dior only wished to be involved in the arts. To make money, he sold his fashion sketches on the streets for about 10 cents for each. In 1928, his father gave him enough money to open an art gallery – on condition that the family name did not appear above the door. Dior named his venture, Galerie Jacques Bonjean, where he sold art by the likes of Pablo Picasso, and it soon became an avant garde haunt.

In 1931 Dior’s mother and brother died, and his family lost the family business. Dior was forced to close the art gallery and began selling his dress designs to fashion houses. In 1942, having left the Army having been called up for military service, Dior joined the fashion house of Lucien Lelong where he and Pierre Balmain were the primary designers. On 8 October 1946 Dior founded his own fashion house at 30 Ave Montaigne, backed by Marcel Boussac, the textile magnate. The salon was modest mansion that was decorated in Dior’s favourite colours of white and grey and embellished in Dior’s version of a Louis XVl salon.

Dior also had sound commercial instincts. A US hosiery company offered the enormous fee of $10,000 for the rights to manufacture Dior stockings, but the couturier proposed waïving the fee in favour of a percentage of the product’s sales. He thereby introduced the royalty payment system to fashion.

At the same time, Dior was highly superstitious. Dior never began a couture show without consulting his tarot card reader.


Christian Dior’s favorite flower was the lily-of-the-valley {Convallaria majalis}, which he considered a symbol of happiness and hope. Every collection included a coat called the ‘Granville’, named after his birthplace and at least one model wore a bunch of lily of the valley.

And Dior decided to bestow his customers with a very personal amulet, Diorissimo, the emblematic fragrance that was created in 1956 by Edmond Roudnitska after years of studying lilies of the valley.

{Images & Sources: Art Tattler; Vogue Web blog; factoidz; Fashion Doll Review; skorver1′s photostream; Fashion Lifestyle; and Les Rhumbs photos by Ritournelle}


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    3 Responses to “Dior’s ring of petals: ‘Flower women’”

    1. Ritournelle says:

      Great post and beautiful pictures! Very interesting to read.
      And thank you for the link to my blog!

    2. caitlin duguid says:

      Dior is undoutedly the most inspiring designer I’ve ever seen his dresses are so beautiful I can’t get them out of my head my lifes ambition is to design for Dior haute couture


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