Christian Dior
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Christian Dior

In January of the year 1905, Christian Dior was born in a coastal town of Normandy, France. The second oldest of five siblings, Dior’s family included a father who was a wealthy fertilizer manufacturer. After moving his family to Paris when Christian was five, his father would take the family back to vacation in Normandy during the summers. The Dior Museum was erected years later to pay homage to the birthplace of this now-celebrated fashion designer.

Though Dior’s father tried to pressure him to pursue a political career, Dior was more interested in art. He pursued this fascination by selling his fashion sketches for 10 francs each out of the family home. But pressure from his father eventually caused him to enroll in the École des Sciences Politiques, where he studied political science. However, following his graduation in 1928, Dior opened a small art gallery with the help of his father, who gave Dior the money with the stipulation that the family name would be displayed above the gallery door. It was at this gallery where he and his colleague sold pieces by notable artists that included Pablo Picasso. But due to such tragic circumstances that included the Great Depression and the death of his parents and brother, Dior was forced to close the gallery in 1931.

Dior was hired as fashion designer Robert Piguet’s assistant in 1937. Of Piguet, Dior would later say that he taught Dior “the virtues of simplicity through which true elegance must come.” Among the designs Dior made for Piguet was the Café Anglais, a short, full skirt that became an instant hit upon its release. However, by this time World War II had begun, and Dior left Piguet to enlist in the French army.

Once the War was over, Dior returned to Paris and opened his own fashion house in 1946 with the help of textile manufacturer Marcel Boussac. Dior presented his first collection in 1947, naming it “Corolle” after a botanical term for a circle of flower petals. But Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief Carmel Snow referred to it simply as Dior’s “New Look,” a name that stuck, and so the collection would ever after be referred to as the New Look collection. This collection contrasted the War-rationed designs of the times with a more womanly shape, resulting in a line of clothing that perfectly encompassed the design needs of the post-war woman: functional yet fashionable. The New Look collection was an uncontested success, and its creations continued to influence fashion designers for years to come. The collection also helped reestablish Paris as the world’s fashion center in the years following the War.

The Christian Dior name continues to hold a prominent place in fashion. Despite being best known for designing women’s ready-to-wear couture, the ever-present popularity of Dior handbags has gained new heights in the most recent years. Stars that include Charlize Theron, Gwyneth Paltrow, Emma Stone, Kate Beckinsale and Emily Blunt are all fans of Dior purses as well as Dior’s classically elegant clothing lines.

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