Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Valentine From Christian Dior

On a chilly February 12, 1947, Christian Dior presented a valentine to the world of fashion; his first fashion collection.

It was revolutionary. For many people it was a startling shock. Not only did Dior have talent, taste and creativity, he was a marketing wunderkind. He knew that a world in ruins and existing on rations dreamt of luxury, allure, prosperity, and romance. His collection, presented in the newly decorated neo Louis XVI salons on Avenue Montaigne, introduced extremely full skirts, exaggerated hips, and soft shoulders. These were impractical, dreamy dresses in contrast to the austerity of wartime clothes. Cupid's arrow had been dipped in the intoxicating essence of Dior's signature lily-of-the-valley, and stylish women clamoured to in some way update their clothing to approximate Christian Dior's creations.

The dramatic change of fashion caused tremendous controversy and attracted enviable attention and interest. The journalists were eager to write of this sensational "New Look," and it was covered in the most prominent newspapers and magazines of the day. In spite of the fact that the fashions were in many ways a step back from the liberating aspects that war and practicality had on the design of women's clothes, such as slacks, utilitarian pockets, modesty, durable fabrics, a lack of foundation garments, and coveralls to work in factories, the designs came to exert tremendous influence on what women wore after the war. They were an expression of optimistic joy that the terrors of conflict were over and once again, consideration could be given to less serious things.

Dior enjoyed immediate success, and became France's unofficial ambassador of fashion, rather than the government diplomat his father had wanted him to be. For the next decade, the ear of fashion was cocked in the direction from whence Dior's dictates came. Dior had become synonymous with Paris fashion at its most prestigious and chic. Many decades later, it's allure has not faded but has increased.

Sixty-three years after the presentation of the "New Look", it is interesting to observe how Christian Dior's impeccable aesthetics are echoed in fashions and tastes of today. The iconic grey and white store still exists at the same location in Paris, and satellite Dior mini boutiques grace the most fashionable shopping districts around the globe. For the past decade, grey and silver have been very popular colours for fashions and for consumer products. John Galliano creatively re-interprets the femininity and charm which the world craved after the war. A pale, almost Scandinavian neoclassical look similar to that of the salons of Dior can be seen in many very liveable, but nonetheless elegant rooms of residences in urban centres around the globe. The name itself is magical, and the DIOR monogram continues to be seen on the tapestry pocketbooks of stylish women. The dream lives on for those who look to Paris and the famous designer who saw women as beautiful flowers. And the image of flowers is something we all look forward to on a chilly early February day...refections of Dior in the emphemeral mirror of fashion.

Photographs and artwork copyright of Square with Flair

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