Christian Dior’s New Look
On this day in 1905 the French fashion designer Christian Dior was born. Dior grew up in the Normandy seaside town of Granville-sur-Mer but was soon working in Paris for a number of well-known fashion designers, including Balmain and Patou. During the Second World War, he was forced to design dresses for Nazi wives while his sister was fighting in the Resistance and later imprisoned at Ravensbruck concentration camp.
After the war he started his own fashion house which he quickly built up into a global brand. The name of Dior became synonymous with the best in fashion. He is most remembered for his ‘New Look’ which brought back longer and fuller skirts; these used more material and initially upset women who had been used to wearing skimpy clothes and short skirts, necessitated by wartime shortages of dress material. Dior died aged 52 while on holiday in Italy. The world lost a great designer, but the name lives on.
Dior did so much to liberate French women from the kind of clothes described in this poem by ASJ Tessimond – On A Painting by Seurat (Un Dimanche à la Grande Jatte):
They rustle in stiff silk skirts:
regimented into the bodice,
tortured into the bustle,
their shape a reversed question-mark
interrogating the past,
and finding nothing to regret…
and at their sides the attendant males,
in sombre mourning for their lost innocence,
the tall hat pressing upon their foreheads
as the sense of respectability upon their minds,
the gold watch fortifying the fickle heart,
the high collar restraining the curious neck…
and, finally, sad trailing children,
and sycophantic dogs….
…that lady there,
Looking into the water,
Tall like a lavender stalk:
Who knows what tragedy transpires
Beneath that wasp-like waist!
Today I give thanks for a sharpened sense of reality that I get from reflection and understanding of myself.