As I visited Paris for the past week I loved shopping the boutiques of Marais, drinking coffee, sitting outside fashionable French bistros, searching for terrific finds in flea markets and obviously going to museums.
So I was lucky because I had the chance to visit the exhibition at Palais Galliera called “The 50′s, Fashion in France 1947-1957″.
Few days were left from its ending and when I arrived there, a long line of people were waiting patiently, to enter the museum.
I was happy to see how many people (and not only fashion addicts) were interested to visit the exhibition, as I think that the glamour of the 50′s always plays a magical charm in the collective.
Those dreamy tulle gowns and heavily embroidered cocktail dress always have the power to enchant people, overcoming social and cultural differences.
Those huge petticoats are a meeting point for everyone, every girl, no matter the age or the origin, staring at those beauties, imagines herself in a 50′s Dior Couture gown.
Dior in fact was the king of the 50′s, the king of Haute Couture: he was the major exporter of clothes and licenses to Usa, he created in a few years an empire, made of more than twenty ateliers and hundreds of workers.
He created a perfume “Miss Dior”, which was sprayed on clients and journalists before the fashion show began.
Dior loved to make woman look gorgeous, it was his mission to impose his style and taste to his clients, sure that his effort and garments could make every women joyful. Even if Chanel rejected the New Look (word is that she accused Dior to be a misogynist, who brought the corset back and trap women into 100 years old garments), his creative style reflects the quintessence of delicacy and grace.
He was a well educated man, equally fascinated by exotic cultures and European traditions.
In 1953 he showcased his design in Japan, affirming his love for this country.
This year Tokyo celebrates Dior’s creation with a retrospective called “Esprit Dior”, showing the Asian influences in Dior’s designs and his successors at the label Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, John Galliano and Raf Simons.
“Esprit Dior” exhibition opened October 30 2014 and will last till January 4 2015.
As a result of the deep interest in Dior’s creations and 1950′s fashion, I decided to write an article about Dior’s career, telling through his words about how to be a couturier.
These are the words of Dior, describing his life devoted to women: he released the interview in 1955 with a journalist of the New York Herald Tribune.
The interview started with Dior concerned about searching the perfect harmony for women’s silhouette:
”The length of a skirt is determined by the shape of a body…by the proportions between the bust and the legs [....].
I have to determine the perfect harmony of a silhouette. The shape of the calf is very important, but also that of the knee, the ugliest part of women’s anatomy. The elbow is also unaesthetic.[...]Generally it’s never good to show it.
Women have to cover the knees too, even if the skirt could change its length, depending on the season”.
Even if his words would sound ridiculous now, I really appreciate his grate concerned about making women feeling comfortable in everyday life, through perfect garments. Which isn’t exactly the main goal of a lot of contemporary designers.
In fact Dior’s goals were different:
“Nothing would make me happier than seeing my style spread all over the world, having a great success.
That’s the reason why I work. Obviously I work for a determinate social class, the elegant class. But I think that fashion is going to be part of the entire world and for all women.
There’s nothing I’d wish the most, that making every woman feel like a duchess and feel beautiful.
The lower classes want to look like the upper classes, it’s a natural law. But I think that a farmer looking like a farmer has the same charm of a duchess looking like a duchess. But I’d hate to see a duchess looking like a farmer.”
He had his own method to create his designs. He was totally into his work, devoted to it.
He described how he came up with the idea of a new silhouette, closing the world outside and finding it in his mind.
It didn’t occurred to him to rely on fashion forecast: he was a genius who settled a new way to do fashion:
“My inspiration is subconscious and imperative. I sketch very quickly, after thinking intensely. I see a silhouette, which I feel in my spirit. I don’t know my sources, but I do fashion this way only.
My new collection comes from the previous one, exaggerating some details and hiding others. It’s a natural reaction.”
He explained then how he gave birth to a design in Dior’s atelier:
“I have a clear thought of what I’m going to do: I start to think and then I begin to sketch, a long time before the collection. Then I replicate directly my sketches with fabrics.
I have in my spirit a sort of “ideal image”, but I always subjected my idea to a severe auto-criticism. I’ve worked for two days to invent my famous H line and I needed three days to organize everything to get started.
Now I’ve almost finished 110 of 140-150 garments that I’m going to show to the press. I’m going to show 20 more to the buyers.
I create garments for women with a medium size and I adjust them, making them fitting perfectly. [....]I have to adjust the size of the dress, in order to be wearable for everyone, but what I prefer the most is the medium size.[......]“
Of course Dior had an ideal muse to refer to, as an artist. He was also interested to see his creations worn by women of different sizes. But he was accused to choose thin models for fittings and fashion shows and he defended himself saying:
“[...]My work isn’t dedicated exclusively to a specific kind of woman.
I work, as I’ve already said, with a medium sized woman in mind and I’m surprised to hear people saying that I create only for thin models. Remember: I can’t consider size as an essential sign of elegance.
Once a collection has been sold, I love to see my garments out on the street, in the middle of social life, not in my atelier. That’s the moment when I can judge my collection and I can begin another one, avoiding previous mistakes. This is the correct way to create a new collection.”
He was also very critique with the copy of his ideas: once one of his ideas had been copied, he considered them vulgar. He said:
“Once vulgarized, even a little defect would become pretentious and here is where I feel the need to fight against it. New ideas are born from the excess and that’s why I sketch very quickly.”
My final thoughts
Dior’s world was ruled by his own laws and schedules. His mind worked as a perfect mechanism.
He was a genius and a man of business, a great couturier and an inimitable designer. Through his words I feel him as a capable man, very strong-willed and with clear ideas. Diplomacy and gentleness were also his qualities.
His premature death has given his creations a mystic allure, a sense of uniqueness and unrepeatability.
His life was dedicated mostly to satisfy the need of glamour and luxury of the upper classes and that’s the reason why his work and his garments have a magical aura.
We are inevitably attracted by his designs: we have the chance to admire one of a kind genial efforts, which made the history of fashion. So you have the chance to go to Tokyo, stop by the “Esprit Dior” exhibition because I’m sure it’ll be well worth.