– October 23
), was an influential French fashion designer
, best known as the founder of one of the world's top fashion houses. He was born in Granville, Normandy, a seaside town off the coast of France.
Acceding to his parents' wishes, Dior attended the École des Sciences Politiques
from 1920 to 1925. The family, whose fortune was derived from the manufacture of fertilizer, had hopes he would become a diplomat, but Dior only wished to be involved in the arts, mostly fashion, but sketching as well. To make money, he sold his fashion sketches on the streets for about 10 cents each. After leaving school he received money from his father so that in 1928 he could open a small art gallery, where he sold art by the likes of Pablo Picasso
and Max Jacob
. After a family financial disaster that resulted in his father losing his business, Dior was forced to close the gallery. From 1938 he worked with Robert Piguet
and later joined the fashion house where he and Pierre Balmain
were the primary designers. In 1945 he went into business for himself, backed by Marcel Boussac
, the cotton-fabric magnate.
The "New Look"
The actual name of the line was Corolle
in French), but the phrase New Look
was coined for it by Carmel Snow
, the editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar
. Dior's designs were more voluptuous than the boxy, fabric-conserving shapes of the recent World War II styles, influenced by the rations on fabric. He was a master at creating shapes and silhouettes; Dior is quoted as saying "I have designed flower women." His look employed fabrics lined predominantly with percale
, boned, bustier-style bodices, hip padding, wasp-waisted corsets and petticoats that made his dresses flare out from the waist, giving his models a very curvaceous form. The hem of the skirt was very flattering on the calves and ankles, creating a beautiful silhouette. Initially, women protested because his designs covered up their legs, which they had been unused to because of the previous limitations on fabric. There was also some backlash to Dior's designs form due to the amount of fabrics used in a single dress or suit--during one photo shoot in a Paris market, the models were attacked by female vendors over the profligacy of their dresses--but opposition ceased as the wartime shortages ended. For the duration of World War II, Christian Dior dressed the wives of the Nazi officers and French collaborators. The New Look
revolutionized women's dress and reestablished Paris as the center of the fashion world after World War II
Dior died at the health spa town Montecatini
. Some reports say that he died of a heart attack after choking on a fish bone. Time magazine's obituary stated that he died of a heart attack after playing a game of cards. However, the Paris socialite and Dior acquaintance Alexis von Rosenberg, Baron de Rédé
stated in his memoirs that contemporary rumor had it that the fashion designer succumbed to a heart attack after a strenuous sexual encounter.
In popular culture
In 2003, Christian Dior Company donated to the Aaliyah
Memorial Fund. In 2006, singer Morrissey released a song titled "Christian Dior" as a b-side to the single "In the Future When All's Well." The song uses Dior's life as a comparison to the songwriter's life, where he seems to believe both have been wasted perfecting a single thing (Dior with fashion, Morrissey with music) and ignored all the good things life had to offer.