Seventy Years of Dior
Even though his name rapidly became world famous, Christian Dior himself was at the helm of the house for only ten years, from 1947 to 1957, before he died of a heart attack. He was succeeded by Yves St Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons, and, today, Maria Grazia Chiuri. Dior supported our efforts to create a chronological overview of the house’s creations under all of these different designers over 70 years, and it was fantastic to see a similar perspective echoed by Maria Grazia when she unveiled her first collection for the house at the end of last year. ‘There were incredible artists who worked in the house after Christian Dior, so I decided to look at the brand in a different way – like a curator’, she said, taking inspiration from each of Dior’s successors in her own collection, including the work of Hedi Slimane for Dior Homme.
The most challenging part was finding photographs of the earlier collections. From 1947 to the 1970s it was sometimes quite tough, but we had precious help from the Dior archive team in Paris, and together we found several images that had never been published before: photographs by Willy Maywald from the early 1950s and previously unknown photographs of 1960s Dior creations drawn from the archives of the Fashion Group in New York. Researching these lost collections was a special experience, as was reading through the original press releases written by Dior and the reviews in 1950s and 1960s American magazines and newspapers, with reports by Vogue editors Jessica Daves and Diana Vreeland and also less well known fashion-show stalwarts such as Eugenia Sheppard at the Washington Post, or Gloria Emerson and Patricia Peterson at the New York Times, who could be quite witty (‘Marc Bohan sent his models trotting out today with the broad, padded shoulders of a high-fashion football team’, wrote Peterson in a – positive – 1963 review).
The Bar Suit
Created by Christian Dior in his first collection in 1947, the Bar suit would become the symbol of the New Look (a term coined in 1947 by Carmel Snow of Harper’s Bazaar), and Dior’s most famous creation. The jacket of the 1947 original, worn over an ample pleated skirt, featured a minute waist set off by rounded hips that were actually padded. It was a very constructed garment, almost like armour, even though it looked quite natural and was designed by Dior to evoke the shape of a flower: ‘I designed clothes for flower-like women’, he would often declare. The four metres of black wool that made up the pleated skirt also made it very heavy and, coming so soon after years of drastic fabric rationing during the war, caused quite a scandal.