‘Mexique’ evening gown (detail), 1951, Christian Dior, Les Arts Décoratifs, In Copyright

Christian Dior was born in Granville, in the north of France. His wealthy family wanted him to become a diplomat, but Dior instead showed interest in the art world: since he was very little, he used to sell his fashion sketches outside his house for about 10 cents. From 1937, Dior was employed by the fashion designer Robert Piguet, who gave him the opportunity to design his collection, and after the war, he decided to open his own maison.

 

‘Mexique’ evening gown, 1951, Christian Dior, Les Arts Décoratifs, In Copyright
‘Mexique’ evening gown, 1951, Christian Dior, Les Arts Décoratifs, In Copyright

On 12 February 1947, Christian Dior launched his first collection. The show was presented at 30 Avenue Montaigne, in the salons of the maison. The lines presented were named ‘Corolle’ and ‘Huit’. However, soon after the presentation, the collection became known as the ‘New Look’ thanks to Carmel Snow, then-editor inches of Harper’s Bazaar, who exclaimed "It's such a New Look! It’s quite a revolution, dear Christian!’ The New Look represented the new spirit that was about to permeate fashion right after the restrictions imposed by World War II. The most known ensemble of the collection is the Bar suit, whose silhouette was characterised by a small waist and rounded shoulders, emphasizing the bust, and a full skirt falling below mid-calf length falling gently on the hips.

‘New Look’ wool flannel jacket, 1947-48, Christian Dior, Victoria and Albert Museum, CC BY
‘New Look’ wool flannel jacket, 1947-48, Christian Dior, Victoria and Albert Museum, CC BY

The skirt took twenty yards of fabrics, and many detractors said it was inconsiderate to use so much material after years of rationing. The new look was quite controversial for many other reasons: feminists complained it was dragging women backwards, given that it reintroduced the corset, depriving women of the freedom of movement - and independence. However, the new style introduced by Christian Dior was extremely popular among women in Europe and America, and still influencing designers today.

Day dress from ‘Corolle et en Huite’, 1947, Christian Dior, Victoria and Albert Museum, Public Domain Mark
Day dress from ‘Corolle et en Huite’, 1947, Christian Dior, Victoria and Albert Museum, Public Domain Mark