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Haute Couture: The House Of Dior

Christian Dior’s life was more than complicated than it might seem at first glance. As a designer in post-world war II, he had much to prove not only to himself but to the public who was hungry for the visually pleasing couture fashion trends of the time. He wanted to change the wartime look for a more feminine look. Shortly before his death, Dior had written a book of his feelings towards his short lived fame. In his memoir Dior by Dior, he tries to publicize an internal conflict that has been looming inside him since his rise to fame. For every piece Dior created there is a background story for it that comes from his inspiration and his own imagination. Since he was raised in a wealthy family, Dior understood luxury and fine arts and took some of his creativeness from paintings by Ingres and is no surprise that after he caught a break from both wars that his focus was in couture, or haute couture to be more precise. His focus was on the curvaceous female form and he constantly used bone, bodices and corsets.

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1946 8 October: the meeting between Christian Dior and Marcel Boussac leads to the founding of the couture house ‘Christian Dior’.

1947 12 February: presentation of the first collection, Spring-Summer 1947, with two lines Corolle (Corolla) and En huit (Figure eight). ‘Christian Dior has revolutionized Couture, rather like the Marne Taxis have saved France’, proclaims the very influential editor of Harper’s Bazaar, Carmel Snow. The New Look was born. Christian Dior is awarded the Oscar of Haute Couture by Mr Neiman Marcus in Dallas, Texas. The house has ninety employees, a turnover of 1.3 million francs and accounts for 75 per cent of all French haute couture exports. October: founding of Parfums Christian Dior. Creation of the perfume Miss Dior.

1948 31 July to 13 August: a Christian Dior parade of fifty-five original and adapted garments, organised by the department store David Jones, is held in Australia. 28 October: founding of Christian Dior New York, Inc for luxurious ready-to-wear and accessories. Founding of Christian Dior Perfumes New York, Inc. In Paris, opening of Christian Dior Furs and a millinery department. 1948 Spring-Summer collection: Zig-Zag line (airy flights and geometric designs). 1948—49 Autumn-Winter collection: Cyclone line (under the sign of wings).

1949 Christian Dior is the first couturier to sign a licence contract. First stocking license in the United States: Christian Dior Hosiery. Christian Dior invents the pointed reinforced stocking heel. The Kings and Queens Ball given by Comte Etienne de Beaumont: Christian Dior comes dressed as a lion, in a costume made by Pierre Cardin, former Premier d’Atelier (head of workroom) at Christian Dior. 1949 Spring-Summer collection: Trompe-l’Oeil line (pocket and decollete effects). 1949—50 Autumn-Winter collection: Milieu du siecle (Midcentury) line (airy and loose-fitting cut). Over 1200 dresses are ordered in eight days.

1950 First tie licence in the United States: Christian Dior Ties. Founding in Paris of the Christian Dior Diffusion department, responsible for wholesale, export and license agreements. Christian Dior is awarded the Legion d’Honneur by the Ministry of Trade and Commerce. Dresses made for Marlene Dietrich for Alfred Hitchcock’s film Stage fright.

1950 Spring-Summer collection: Verticale (Vertical) line (neat and flowing). 1950—51 Autumn-Winter collection: Oblique (Oblique) line (pink and grey velvet).

1951 Creation of the stocking department. Creation of Dior Sport, ribbed stockings in four colours. The personnel now number 900. The Beistegui Ball at the Labia Palace in Venice, for which Christian Dior designs several costumes and some spectacular capes. With Salvador Dali, he creates a living painting entitled The giants. The book Je suis couturier by Christian Dior is published by Conquistador. 1951 Spring-Summer collection: Ovale (Oval) line (constructed/natural line). 1951—52 Autumn-Winter collection: Longue (Long) line (entirely new proportions).

1952 Founding of Christian Dior Models Ltd in London. 1952 Spring-Summer collection: Sinueuse (Sinuous) line (blousons and sweaters). 1952—53 Autumn-Winter collection: Profilee (Profile) line (shapely waists and curves).

1953 Founding of the Christian Dior Delman Company, manufacturing made-to-measure shoes designed by Roger Vivier. 1953 Spring-Summer collection: Tulipe (Tulip) line (fuller bust, slender hips). 1953—54 Autumn-Winter collection: Vivante (Alive) line (inspired by the Eiffel Tower and the domes of Paris; nicknamed the Shock Look in England, because the skirts are shortened to 16 inches, about 40 cm, above the ground).

1954 Opening of Christian Dior Ltd in London. The House of Christian Dior Paris employs a thousand people and is located in five buildings, with twenty-eight workrooms.

1954 Spring-Summer collection: Muguet (Lily-of-the-valley) line (volume of hat, bust and skirt).

1954—55 Autumn-Winter collection: H-line (the Flat Look, nicknamed the String Bean line).

1955 Opening of the boutique at the corner of rue Francois 1er. Opening of the Gifts—Tableware department. 3 August: a lecture by Christian Dior at the Sorbonne titled Aesthetics of fashion’ before 4000 students. ‘Doesn’t fashion unite the two spirits of geometry and fineness?’, he said. Yves Saint Laurent, young winner of the wool design contest, for which Christian Dior was a member of the jury in 1953, is engaged to work at the studio. He becomes the only assistant Christian Dior ever had. Christian Dior designs Olivia de Havilland’s wedding dress. 1955 Spring-Summer collection: A-line (a contrast of waisted shapes with diagonals). 1955 Autumn-Winter collection: Y-line (simplicity and length).

1956 Fourteen dresses made for Ava Gardner for the film The little hut by Mark Robson.Twenty-five thousand customers pass through the Christian Dior salons in a single season. Publication by Amiot-Dumont of Christian Dior’s memoirs Christian Dior et Moi. Launch of the perfume Diorissimo. 1956 Spring-Summer collection: Fleche (Arrow) line (slenderized and feminine). 1956—57 Autumn-Winter collection: Aimant (Magnet) line (rounded shapes).


The ‘Juno’ Dress

The “Junon” dress, is French for Juno who is an ancient Roman goddess she is known as the one who makes the child see the light of day. The dress is like an upside down blooming flower with shiny sequins petals that shimmer under the spotlight.


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Tambour embroidery

Tambour Embroidery is one of the most efficient embroidery method in haute couture. Instead of a needle, very fine, sharp hook is punched through a tightly stretched fabric to catch a fine thread from beneath and draw it up, creating a linked, chain-like stitch. The name “tambour work” comes from the way the fabric is held taut between two round, fitted hoops, resembling the head of a small drum, or tambour. A pattern was usually marked on the fabric, to be followed by the embroiderer, and designs were commercially available. Because the thread is continuous, a practiced worker could stitch more rapidly than by other traditional embroidery methods. It also required less concentration, which made it perfect for being industrious while socializing with friends. The finished work could be almost lacy – a popular effect when working with white thread on a white fabric – or dense with shades of color.


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