Christian Dior – Emperor of Fashion Design

And boy does this Emperor have the clothes! With the exception of Coco Chanel, no one defines “high style” better than Christian Dior (1905-1957). He’s been called the “epitome of elegance” and the “impresario of haute couture.”

Christian Dior adjusts his fabulous dress on his model.

After WWII he revolutionized the way women dressed with a fashion collection, dubbed the “New Look” (by an editor from Harper’s Bazaar magazine).  Overnight clothing design advanced from austere to swanky; from boxy to sexy. Dior accented the female silhouette—with nipped waists, soft shoulders, petticoats, and gobs of beautiful fabric. Of this look he said, “I have designed flower women.”

I get a kick out of this comment. Likewise in his book, The Little Dictionary of Fashion (1954), he said, “After woman, flowers are the most lovely thing God has given the world.” Now that’s a lovely statement!

I, too, am a fan of flowers (notice any on my website perhaps?). My cartoon character FuchsiaWoman is obviously named after the fuchsia flower. In my Percy Veerance books, one of the main characters is Auntie Flora. She is the flower farmer—who not only adorns her clothes/hats/shoes with flowers, but her cottage as well. She also sleeps on a bed made from rose petals. I think one of the lines in my books is that Aunt Flora “is like a walking floral air freshener.”

Christian Dior owned a flower farm outside of Paris. His favorite flower was lily of the valley. He used artificial ones quite often when designing his hats. I collect vintage hats and the Dior ones are my favorites. Some of them are like wearing a bouquet of flowers on your head. One of these days I hope to have the guts to wear them on a daily basis. (But so far, they sit in my writing room to inspire me!) One day I also hope to photograph them all and display them on this site because they are a flowery spectacle—so stay tuned. In the meantime, here’s one of them.

Vintage Dior hat with characteristic flowers. Photo courtesy of Ebay Seller lady_bloodstone, purveyor of very cool hats!

Dior’s book is full of tidbits about vintage fashion, like: the difference between a “day frock” and an “afternoon frock;” why to be wary of brocade (“…it may not look young…”; purple is an “old” color; gloves and hat: “you cannot be dressed without them”; and perfume is “considered an essential part of a woman’s attraction.”

There is also timeless advice in the book, like: “It is possible for a woman to be elegant without spending very much money on her clothes;” and Simplicity, good taste, and grooming are the three fundamentals of good dressing.”

In Christian Siriano’s book, Fierce Style (see yesterday’s blog), he says, “…clothes and personal style make a statement to the world.” In order to make a “fierce” statement (i.e., being fabulous), you need to feel it, not just wear it. He says, “…the first step to feeling that way yourself means being you, through and through.”

Similarly, at the end of Dior’s book, under the heading “Zest,” he said, “Anything you do, work or pleasure, you have to do it with zest. You have to live with zest…and that is the secret of beauty and fashion, too.”

Having ZEST. Being FIERCE. Or being a FuchsiaWoman. Same thing in my book.

P.S. Dior liked the color pink, which he called the “sweetest of all colors” and “the color of happiness and femininity.” Perhaps he was thinking of fuchsia!

Vintage Dior suit.

Reese Witherspoon in vintage Dior dress from the 1950s.

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