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she has... steered me successfully through the intricate world of fashion

Time:2019-01-30 23:18Underwear site information Click:

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“Dior class="arc_keyword" href="/Ladies_underwear/201705/0511435.html"> class="arc_keyword" href="/Ladies_underwear/201805/1218038.html"> doesn’t dress women, he upholsters them,” Coco Chanel once said of her fellow designer Christian Dior. And of his debut collection, she remarked spikily: “Look how ridiculous these women are, wearing clothes by a man who doesn’t know women, never had one, and dreams of being one.”

This was in 1947, when Dior unveiled his first ever couture collection to the public, with its bell-shaped, petal-like long skirts in taffeta and tulle, lifted busts, softly sloped shoulders and cinched-in waists. The style became known as the New Look, as it was so markedly different from the preceding pared-back, more androgynous styles – of which Chanel was a key purveyor. Dior’s look was romantic, lavish, elaborate, feminine, and harked back to an earlier Belle Epoque silhouette. It was a huge success.

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“The buzz was huge,” says Oriole Cullen, curator of a new exhibition at the V&A, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, an extended version of an exhibition originally shown at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. “There were huge crowds outside his first show, and Nancy Mitford commented that even the taxi drivers were talking about Dior. Negotiations to establish the house of Dior had begun in 1946 when the world was just coming out of World War Two. After the austerity of the war and the boxy silhouettes, Dior introduced a more glamorous look. The launch marked the return of the Parisian fashion industry.”

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Dior was a “clever businessman” who brought worldwide cachet to Paris, says Cullen. His approach and ambition were global: he forged business links not only in New York and London but in Japan, Australia and Venezuela. The perfumes and boutique products, including underwear and stockings, were also a shrewd idea. “He took it to the maximum, and his name became prominent all over the world.” He was a huge cultural and business figure, and even made the cover of Time magazine. His lavish haute-couture gowns were transformative, fairy-tale creations, worn by the most glamorous stars of the time, from Marlene Dietrich, who only wore Dior, to Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth and ballerina Margot Fonteyn.

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But was Chanel right to be contemptuous? Was Dior’s approach demeaning, and his corseted style retro, trussed-up and restrictive to women? He was nicknamed ‘The Tyrant of Hemlines’, and initially, there were protests against him by some women because his designs covered up their legs, which they had been unused to because of the previous limitations on fabric during wartime. Was he that familiar stereotype – the dictatorial couturier, tyrannically forcing women into wasp-like silhouettes in order to create an idealised, male version of womanhood?

There was an exalted triumvirate of women at the house of Dior

In fact, it is striking to discover how close he was to women, and how highly they regarded him. Not only did women love how his clothes made them look and feel, those that came into contact with him seemed to adore him personally too. When he died suddenly at the age of 52, there was an outpouring of grief – 2,500 people attended his funeral. There was also a sense of “panic”, says Cullen, that the house of Dior would have to close. “But thanks to a great team of women – and some men – it was able to carry on and stay true to his vision.”

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This talented team had been working directly with Dior and were highly valued and respected by him – a fact that seems to contradict Chanel’s view of the designer as, in some way, anti-women.  As Dior himself explained in one of his two autobiographies, there was in particular an exalted triumvirate of women at the house of Dior. He describes Madame Raymonde Zehnacker, who was the director of the design studio and Dior’s right-hand woman: “Raymond was to become my second self,” he writes in his 1951 book Je Suis Couturier. “Or to be more accurate, my other half. She is my exact complement: she plays reason to my fantasy, order to my imagination, discipline to my freedom, foresight to my recklessness, and she knows how to introduce peace into an atmosphere of strife. In short, she has... steered me successfully through the intricate world of fashion, in which I was still a novice in 1947.”

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According to Cullen, Marguerite Carré – who Dior poached from the house of Patou – was “a technical genius”. She would look at his sketches and then turn them into reality, from the choice of materials to the execution of the piece. The relationship was completely symbiotic, says Cullen: “a team effort”. Of Mme Carré, Dior writes: “Over the years she has become part of myself – of my dressmaking self, if I can so call it.”

Madame Bricard is one of those people, increasingly rare, who make elegance their sole raison d’être – Christian Dior

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