Christian Dior

Lauren Bowes

Designer Biography

DOI: 10.5040/9781474260428-FPA228

Christian Dior was born in 1905 in Granville, France. His parents’ aspirations encouraged him into a degree at the École Libre des Sciences Politiques in Paris, yet his passions always lay within the arts and particularly in fashion design. Dior briefly ran an art gallery from 1928 to 1931 until he encountered financial difficulties and was forced to close. In 1938, he was appointed as an assistant by French couturier Robert Piguet. However, with the outbreak of World War II in 1939, he was forced to leave this position in order to serve his country. On his return to Paris in the early 1940s, he soon reengaged with the fashion design industry and was employed by Lucien Lelong, a renowned French couturier, where he worked alongside Pierre Balmain.

By 1946, Dior had founded his own fashion house on Avenue Montaigne in Paris. The first Christian Dior couture show took place on 12 February 1947, a monumental event that would become iconic in the world of fashion. The show unveiled a new silhouette, the corolle (meaning “circlet of flower petals”), which emphasized a small waist and featured full, flowing skirts. This design was one that was in direct contrast to the austere aesthetic of wartime fashion, and signified a transition from the hardship of war into the optimism of the postwar period. The new silhouette or corolle is most commonly known as the New Look, a term coined by the editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar, Carmel Snow. Following this, the design house was inundated with orders from across the globe, with a significant market developing in the United States. Building on this success, Dior opened a ready-to-wear boutique in New York, launched new fragrances, and negotiated the licensing for Christian Dior hosiery, ties, and other merchandise.

In 1955, Dior appointed Yves Saint Laurent as his first and only assistant. Two years later, Dior died from a heart attack and Yves Saint Laurent assumed the position of creative director. His first collection since the death of Dior was a resounding success, yet his increasingly revolutionary style caused conflict with the Dior company’s management and he was replaced by Marc Bohan in 1960. Bohan remained as chief designer until Dior was acquired by the luxury goods group LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) in 1996. Subsequently, LVMH appointed the young, radical designer John Galliano to head the design house. Following controversy, Galliano was forced to relinquish his role, which in the early twenty-first century is held by Dutch designer Raf Simmons. The heritage of Dior has established the brand as a symbol of beauty, grace, and joie de vivre, with an ethos that is rooted in romanticism and femininity. This formula has persisted in being both commercially and creatively successful.

Christian Dior, Fall/Winter 2001. Photograph by Niall McInerney, Fashion Photography Archive

References and Further Reading

Find in Library Carrara Gillion. ““Dior: The New Look”.” Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture 13, no. 1 (2009): 111–116 .

Find in Library Palmer Alexandra. “Haute Couture.” In the A–Z of Fashion . Berg Fashion Library, 2010 .

Find in Library Parkins Ilya. Poiret, Dior and Schiaparelli: Fashion, Femininity and Modernity . London : Bloomsbury, 2012.

Find in Library Pujalet-Plaà Eric. “Christian Dior.” In the A–Z of Fashion . Berg Fashion Library, 2010 .