French fashion designer Christian Dior was born on 21 January, 1905, in Granville, a seaside town on the coast of Normandy, France. He is best known as the founder of one of the world’s top fashion houses Christian Dior, also known as the House of Dior; which opened on 16 December, 1946, at 30 Avenue Montaigne, in Paris.
On 12 February 1947, Dior launched his first fashion collection for Spring–Summer 1947. The show was presented in his fashion salon. Originally the line was named Corolle, (trans, botanical term corolla, or circlet of flower petals in English), but the phrase which became popular to describe this collection was the ‘New Look’.
- This phrase was originally coined by Carmel Snow, the then editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar who exclaimed, “It’s such a new look!”
Dior was a master at creating shapes and silhouettes. His early designs were more voluptuous than the boxy, fabric-conserving shapes of the World War II styles, influenced by the rations on fabric. Dior’s look employed fabrics lined predominantly with percale, boned, bustier-style bodices, hip padding, wasp-waisted corsets and petticoats that made his dresses and full skirts flare out from the waist. This gave his models a very curvaceous form, which emphasized the bust and hips; as epitomized by the ‘Bar Suit‘ from his first collection. Not everyone was pleased with the ‘New Look‘. For some, the collection was a breath of fresh air, but for others, the amount of material used was seen as wasteful, especially after years of cloth rationing. During one photo shoot in a Paris market, the models were attacked by female vendors over this profligacy, but opposition ceased as the wartime shortages ended.
The ‘New Look‘ revolutionized women’s dress and reestablished Paris as the centre of haute couture fashion after World War II. Glamorous and young-looking, the ‘New Look‘ became extremely popular, influencing other fashion designers well into the 1950s, and Dior gained a number of prominent clients from Hollywood, and the European, British and American aristocracy.
- The ‘Bar Suit‘ was part of the 1947 ‘New Look‘ collection and an architectural marvel, as it recalled the 19th century crinoline and revived complex traditional couture techniques. Apparently, the ‘Bar’ took its name from the bar at the Plaza Athénée, which Dior frequented. With its tailored jacket made from four yards of shantung silk; rounded shoulders in a soft ivory shade; it was padded at the hipline for a more rounded and feminine shape. The calf-length pleated wool skirt measured eight yards around the hem and weighed almost five pounds. The ‘Bar‘ was such a hit at sales that it was widely copied and replicated. Dior constantly reworked and updated his hero piece; and presented it in various versions in almost all of his 22 haute couture collections he designed; until his sudden death while on holiday in Montecatini, Italy, on 23 October, 1957.
In 2007, it was the 60th anniversary of the ‘New Look’. John Galliano, for his first Spring-Summer collection at Dior, revisited Dior’s ‘Bar’ suit. Galliano’s Diosera uses the same colour palette as the original; and the fringed [crepe] wool jacket retains the wasp waist and rounded shoulder design. Rather than adhering to the ‘New Look‘ template, his version is paired with a very short black leather skirt and topped with an oversized fedora hat.
- The black and white gelatin slide shows Dior’s 19 year old house model Renee Breton modelling the ‘Bar Suit’ in 1947. It was taken by German fashion photographer Willy Magwald. [Photograph is part of the Victoria and Albert Museum collection]. Other photograph of Renee is by British photographer Cecil Beaton, taken in 1955. Renee Breton died in New York in 1979 aged 51.
Discover more about Dior’s ‘Bar Suit‘ at Vogue magazine’s website page ‘Christian Dior Bar Jacket: A brief History
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