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The Enduring Legacy of Christian Dior
Christian Dior is generally just known as Dior. It started in France, after World War II to become one of the biggest fashion houses in the world, making leather items, watches, footwear, jewelry, make-up, skin care items, and fragrances.
Christian Dior always wanted to be an artist, though his family hoped he would be a diplomat. Even when young, Dior would sell fashion sketches outside his house to make extra cash. Eventually, Christian’s father helped the young man by funding an art gallery in 1928, but it was not to last. The Great Depression destroyed the Dior family fortune, but Christian Dior never lost his passion for art and fashion.
It wasn’t until after World War II that Christian Dior was able to make his mark on the fashion world. His designs caught the eye of a wealthy French cotton fabric magnate, and with the magnate’s funds, the Christian Dior fashion house was established on December 16, 1946. Within a few months, it was the talk of the fashion world.
Fashions during the period of the war were squarish and unflattering, because of fabric rationing. Now that fabric was easily available again, Christian Dior focused on clothing that was more feminine. Corset-like additions were used to tighten the waist and emphasize the bust, with flaring hips and skirts that fell to mid-calf, creating the hourglass figure that would become popular for decades to come.
There were some unhappy with this “New Look” as it came to be called. Some women were unhappy with the longer skirts, since their legs were no longer visible. Fabric rationing had made skirts shorter by necessity and many liked that new style. Some dressmakers were not happy about the extra fabric necessary to make these new outfits. But then the war shortages ended, and people became ready to try new things. It wasn’t long before the New Look and Christian Dior made Paris the fashion capital of the world.
The house of Christian Dior quickly expanded to other fields, including perfumes. A separate fragrance endeavor, Parfums Christian Dior, started in 1947 by introducing Miss Dior, a fragrance still sold today. It is characterized as a feminine, refreshing scent, woodsy and mossy. Green florals like gardenia, sage, and rose comprise this fragrance, which is recommended for daytime wear.
The fragrance named Chris 1947 recalls those early days, as well, combining some unique floral essences, like sweet pea and cactus, with a touch of musk to create a romantic aroma.
Plagued with heart problems, Christian Dior died on October 23, 1957, while only in his fifties, but his legacy would go on, carried by very capable hands.
The House of Dior
The death of Christian Dior threw the fashion world into chaos. Many involved in the Paris fashion industry were certain the company would have to shut down after the loss of its pioneering designer. This would have been a disaster – Dior was the linchpin of Paris fashion. The entire industry may have collapsed.
Those in charge of the House of Dior promoted a 21-year-old designer to take charge of the fashion designs. This young man was Yves Saint-Laurent, who would later become a fashion giant in his own right. His first move was to make the fabric used in Dior’s designs both softer and lighter, so they would be easier to wear, while still retaining the aesthetic of the New Look. As bold as his predecessor, Saint-Laurent would continue to make innovations until he was called into the French army.
By this time, Dior was firmly established and moved smoothly to other designers, who created not only clothing, but shoes, make-up, leather goods, furs, and perfumes. The company is known as much for perfume as for its more tangible wearable items. Many are familiar with Poison, for instance, an oriental floral fragrance. It has a luxurious aroma, composed of honey, berries, amber, and other spices, perfect for those romantic evenings.
Even in the early days, when Christian Dior was in charge, men were not neglected. Dior Homme cologne is part of a line of Dior items that goes back into the mid-20th century. Another classic in this line is Eau Sauvage, created in 1966, a fruity and refined fragrance. It is a masculine scent, combining lemon, rosemary, citrus, and basil, perfect for evening use.
Decades later, the House of Dior is still a powerful force in fashion. Under its new creative director, Raf Simmons, they are now looking at bringing the New Look into the 21st century. It remains to be seen what other innovations will be born from the legacy of Christian Dior in the future.