Legendary Fashion designer Christian Dior has shaped the industry and created pieces that are widely popular, and continue to influence the fashion world. Dior’s line was driven by the curves of the female figure, playing with structure and proportion to create clothes that powerfully express attitude. From hemlines, to waits and busts, Dior’s designs capture the essence of femininity greatly.
Born in 1905 in the seaside town of Normandy in France, Dior was the second of five children. Passionate about art and expressing an interest in becoming an architect, he was pressured by his parents to gain a diploma, and so enrolled to study Political Science. After graduating he followed his passion of art and opened a small gallery which handled the works of notable artists such as Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, but was forced to close the gallery after the deaths of his older brother and mother, and the financial collapse of his father’s business.
Following the closing of the gallery, he began to make ends meet by selling his fashion sketches, and then soon landed a job at illustrating fashion magazine Figaro Illustre, before being hired as a design assistant by Paris couturier Robert Piguet. Upon returning to Paris from Germany after the second world war where he served in the army, he was hired by couturier Lucien Lelong as a designer where the house dressed women of both Nazis and French collaborators. In December 1946 Dior launched the fashion house, ‘House of Dior’.
His first collection was launched in 1947, and from then up until his death in 1957, he designed 22 collections which each comprised of over 150 looks.
Today, the Dior brand is celebrated not just through his clothing, but through designs such as jewellery and make up, and his legacy continues to inspire.
What I love about Dior’s designs specifically, is that they really play on the idea of femininity. It’s clear from very early on that he wanted to tailor designs that would highlight women with extreme importance, making them feel their very best.
“I think of my work as ephemeral architecture, dedicated to the beauty of the female body”
His pieces include dominant silhouettes and tulips which create very dainty and delicate looks. He described women as ‘divine creations’ famously citing that ‘after women, flowers are the most divine of creations’.
A lot of his inspiration was taken from his sketching of dresses outside in his garden, where he was surrounded by flowers. Here, he would gain ideas to form silk flower decorations, abundant prints and intricate embroideries to incorporate into his designs.
I recently visited the Christian Dior Designer of Dreams exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and was completely blown away and mesmerised by the carefully curated pieces on show from some of his collections. Beautifully crafted and put together designs that really highlight the detail of his work. I was hugely inspired by the collection, and really empowered by the fact that the designs, and much of the messages express the importance of females.
It was interesting to me, walking through the exhibit and through the timelines of Dior that the current creative director at the House of Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri, is in fact the first female artistic director at Dior. Much of her vision is based around femininity, highlighting female empowerment as well as political and social issues. In her first fashion show for Dior she featured a T-Shirt bearing the title of feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s essay’ ‘We should all be Feminists’, and although it sparked some controversy, it has sparked debate and raised questions about topics such as gender, race and cultures that she insists have to be reflected in fashion.
For such definitive and distinctive portrayals of femininity through his work, it seems a long time coming that Maria Grazia Chiuri would be the first female lead, but this is a step in the right direction that needs to continue to be recognised and encouraged more than ever in today’s society.
Much of Dior’s work can be recognised through inspiration from the high street, which many brands incorporate into their pieces today. The dress I am wearing in pictures bears a very similar resemblance to the tulip styled rose petal dress displayed in the exhibit from his earlier years. Romantic, classic and chic with French flare is how I would describe it.
What I took away from this experience, and from the Christian Dior story is, in fact that we are all capable of creating something great. It all lies in our hands, if we just believe and take up that passion. There is nothing stopping us.
“Everything created by human hands expresses something – above all the personality of the creator”