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#BornThisDay: Fashion Designer, Christian Dior

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Christian Dior, photo via YouTube

January 21, 1905– Christian Dior

FADE IN:

EXT. RED CARPET, KODAK THEATRE – LATE AFTERNOON, ANOTHER DAY OF SUN

RYAN SEACREST and MOVIE STAR on a pedestal with microphone

SEACREST

“Who are you wearing?”

MOVIE STAR

“Vintage Dior Couture. I’m the main attraction.”

SLOW DISSOLVE TO FADE OUT

What is with the tortured, tragic lives of great fashion designers?

Christian Dior was one of the most influential fashion designers of the 20th century.

He was born in Normandy, the heir to a French fertilizer fortune. As a child, Dior loved to draw and he was able to sell his sketches for a few coins. In his early 20s, Dior’s father financed a small Paris art gallery for his talented son.

Starting as a sketch artist, Dior worked his way up to a designer in The House Of Piguet. He left his position there to serve in the French Army, but after WW II, Dior established his own fashion house with the backing of his lover, a very wealthy textile magnate. Within 12 years he expanded his business to 15 countries and he employed over 2,000 people.

Dior is known mostly for a look which employed narrow shoulders, a constricted waist, an emphasized bust, and a long, wide skirt, all in striking contrast to the severity of wartime fashions. His designs represented consistent classic elegance.

Dior’s “The New Look” revolutionized women’s clothing and reestablished Paris as the center of the fashion world after WW II. He spread his fashions around the world when he and his partner, Jacques Rouet, started franchises in the fashion industry. In 1953, Yves Saint-Laurent became Dior’s assistant and was destined to be his successor but was reluctantly forced to leave when the time came for his own military service, if you can imagine such a thing.

Via Youtube

Dior introduced its first collection called “Ligne Corolle” with ultra-feminine dresses, inspired by the French fashion of the late 19th century. Elegance and charm distinguished his creations. He experimented with new silhouettes and new lengths, using sophisticated and luxurious materials. The Dior woman had rounded shoulders, long flared skirts that were eight inches from the ground, wide, flat hats, the famous corset, long gloves and high heels.

It was in direct contrast with fellow French designer Coco Chanel’s style, which in that era had allowed women to enjoy stylistic freedom. Instead, Dior gave a romantic, elegant, feminine model for women.  His clothes were works of art, built and structured in every detail that only in the mid-1950s moved to lighter, more comfortable, simpler lines. Dior was the first to associate the style of accessories to the lines of clothing, selling bags, shoes, scents and cosmetics.

L’Officiel May 1952, photo by Pottier

Vogue April 1956, photo by Henry Clarke

Elle July 1957,  photo by Jeanloup Sieff

 

His favorite places to sketch were in his bathtub or bed. In 1957, Dior became the first designer to be featured on a cover of Time Magazine, proving that he was true fashion royalty. Hollywood embraced Dior’s designs and the world’s most elegant and fashionable women chose his dresses; the Duchess Of WindsorRita Hayworth, and Ava Gardner were regular clients. Dior designed Marlene Dietrich’s entire wardrobe for Stage Fright (1950) directed by Alfred Hitchcock (who never wore Dior).

Towards the end of his life, Dior had a hectic round of special injections to wake up in the morning, injections for his appetite, and more injections to sleep. His niece, who was his favorite relative, openly blamed Dior’s Jewish manager who procured his medications, along with Dior’s collection of hot young men, for being part of a Jewish plot forcing him towards his death. Dior found himself at odds with his family as his wealth grew and he eventually disinherited the entire bunch.

“Finally, everything that has been part of my life, whether I wanted it to or not, has expressed itself in my dresses.”

Bisexual, with many lovers of both sexes, Dior’s last companion was Jacques Benita, a young Algerian singer, who he met in 1956 and who, from that time, had to be included in everything on Dior’s social calendar. After the Fall 1957 Collection, Dior was desperate for a rest and decided to take Benita to Tuscany, despite the warnings of his astrologer, who was very much against the vacation. Dior was so infatuated with Benita that he decided to diet to try to become more attractive, even though Benita said this really was not necessary. Dior was a drug addict who was taken from this world by an overdose while enjoying a special sexual liaison. He was just 52-years-old when he went.

At the time of his passing, Dior salons had been opened in 24 countries. The House Of Dior, led by designers Yves Saint Laurent, then Marc Bohan, continues to be a fashion leader and is now associated with a much wider range of merchandise: men’s wear, household linens, and fragrances.

Vogue September 1958, photo Donald Siverstein

 

Dior was a classic designer and he was a star. His life was filled with parties, exquisite things, pretty boys, illegal substances… all the things that famous people eat, feel, and own.

I came from the people

They need to adore me

So Christian Dior me from my head to my toes

I need to be dazzling

I want to be Rainbow High

They must have excitement

And so must I

Evita (1978)

Tim Rice, lyrics


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