Tag Archives: Christian Dior

Currently Reading – Christian Dior: History and Modernity, 1947 – 1957

I am sure that all of you know I do not collect haute couture clothing. Well, actually, I do have three couture ensembles. One was a lucky and cheap flea market find, one was an eBay bargain, and the other was a splurge that I bought for myself to wear. But while I don’t seek out couture pieces to collect, I will on occasion, enjoy a good book on haute couture.

I bought Christian Dior: History & Modernity, 1947 – 1957 because a person whose opinion I respect recommended it on Instagram.  And she was right. This is a great book.

There was a time, not so long ago that books on historic fashion were all about the pretty pictures of beautiful clothes. And while I love looking at these books as much as anyone can, they always leave me wanting more. I want to know the historic context, the construction details, the fabrics used. In this new Dior book, that’s what Alexandra Palmer gives us.

This is not so much a book about Dior as it is about the Dior garments in the collection of the Royal Ontario Museum. A year ago many of the dresses were on exhibition in the museum. I recently read a complaint of sorts that maybe the subject of Dior was being overexposed, with there being five major exhibitions within the past two years. All I can say is that if the exhibitions lead to the type of scholarship shown in this book, then overexposure is fine with me.

The bulk of the book consists of garment “biographies” in which each dress is looked at in detail. We are treated to the inner workings of construction, told who made the fabrics (and ribbons, as in the case of Soiree Romantique, above), shown the original press photo and any magazine features.

To a person who loves the construction aspect of fashion, this is a real treat.

There is so much information about each garment that I’ll be rereading each biography, taking my time to absorb the wealth of detail.

We also get a really good look at how haute couture designers and workshops work with clients to individualize each design especially for the owner of the dress. In many cases, there are vintage photographs of the original owner wearing her Dior. The gown above is Palmyre, and it was owned by Dorothy Boylen of Toronto.

The left photo shows the reverse of the embroidery, which was made with the use of a tambour hook. These embroideries were actually worked on the reverse. On the right is a finished front panel for this gown.

Clients often chose to have a design made in a different color than was originally envisioned by Dior. In this case, Caracas was designed as a black dress, but I think it works quite well in this icy blue.

And here is the dress in black, worn by Sophia Loren.

Both dresses were made in a special silk developed by the textile firm Staron, a frequent supplier to Dior. Staron would offer as many as 300 colors in a collection. You can see some of them in the top photo.

Click to enlarge

Probably my favorite part of this book was the six technical sketches of patterns developed by Berta Pavlov. Seeing a simple black dress with a pleated skirt all laid out that way makes it more than obvious that Dior did not do simple. This skirt was constructed by sewing thirty-three two-piece godets into slits cut into the one-piece skirt. That means this skirt has a total of ninety-nine seams.

Unfortunately, this leads to what I disliked about this book. Many of the garments were black, and they were photographed on a black background. As you can see, the dress just melts into the black. At first I thought it was just my very poor eyesight playing evil tricks, but as this lightened photo shows, there simply is not enough contrast for one to be able to see the dress.

I find this a bit puzzling, seeing as how we are treated to all kinds of details and close-ups throughout the book, but then can’t see the finished product in many cases. Still, it’s not enough to keep me from really loving this book.

If you want a biography of Christian Dior, this is not the book. If you want to learn more about how haute couture as practiced by Dior led to some very remarkable clothes, then this is the book for you.





Filed under Currently Reading, Designers

Early 1960s Christian Dior Hat

Sometimes you stumble upon something that is really not your thing, but is simply too great to pass up.  In this case, I spotted this hat in an antique mall, and just knew it was going to have a fancy label attached.    I was also braced for a fancy price tag.

I was right on one count, but luckily, wrong on the other.  I paid $12 for this Dior explosion of flowers.  So, like I said, it was way too wonderful to not pick up if only to display in my office so I can be reminded that there was a time when a woman would wear this much whimsy on her head.

I hope you can tell that the curls are actually feathers that are backed with organza.  The lily-of-the-valley flowers are in white and pink.  It is all mounted on a mesh cap.

I was hoping to find a similar Dior hat in my early 1960s Vogue and L’Officiel  magazines, but the closest I came was this hat by designer Michel Goma, in a 1963 ad.

The hat fits rather like a wig, and was designed to accommodate the beehive hairdos of the era.

If you want to see it in the round, I posted a vine on twitter.  I think I need a tripod for my phone!


Filed under Designers, Vintage Clothing

Miss Dior Hat – Early 1960s

A recent shopping venture turned up the hat above, which has a nice label:  Miss Dior.  And though the label also reads Created by Christian Dior, that might be a bit misleading.

I say that because when this hat was created in the early 1960s, Christian Dior, the man, had been dead for several years.  However, the company that carried his name lived on.  The designer at Christian Dior when this hat was made was mostly likely Marc Bohan, who took over the design duties from Yves Saint Laurent in 1960.

The Miss Dior name was originally attached to a perfume, but by the early 60s it also labeled a line of ready-to-wear hats designed and sold by the House of Dior.  Dior is famed as a couture house, but they also did several lines of ready-to-wear clothing, such as Dior Boutique.   In 1967 Dior started a new line that was meant to appeal to younger customers, which they named Miss Dior.  Today the name lives on as the name of one of Dior’s perfumes, which from what I’ve read is quite unlike the original.

In the late 1950s women’s hair styles started to get bigger, to become more bouffant.  The prim little hats of the 50s were just out of place on the new hair styles.  Some women even toyed with the idea of abandoning the wearing of a hat.  The hat designers responded with hats of a design to match the new hairdos.   They were higher, and often sat on the crown of the head.  In some fashion photos of the era it is hard to tell if you are looking at a hat or at hair (or a hair piece…)

My hat is made from fur felt and it is completely undecorated.  From the front it looks like a toque, but from the side you can see that there is actually a very wide and laid back brim.  Is there a name for this style?

A closeup of the surface shows off the furriness of it.

And a final shot from the front.  I have a new camera, and was playing around with the background defocus.  Yes, I do need to practice a bit more.

Here are two similar examples from spring, 1963.  The top is from Guy Laroche, and the bottom one is Dior.


Filed under Collecting, Designers, Vintage Clothing

Paris – Post WWII

Only three years after the war was over, European countries were ready and open for the tourist business.  This great print was the cover of Holiday magazine in May 1948. The article talks about how people were getting over the sorrow of German occupation, and were getting on with life.

It also mentions the fashion business, and how the haute couture was struggling with various problems – the continuing fabric shortages, the high wages and taxes that must be paid, and the lack of foreign customers.   Many houses were pretty much surviving on the profits from perfumes.   And the article mentions a “baldish, stubby newcomer named Christian Dior” who was helping to bring the fashionable back to Paris with the introduction of his “New Look.”

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Filed under Travel, World War II