Happy 60th Dior Couture

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    One of Dior's delicately layered couture gowns

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    From left to right: 1947: Dior's New Look causes a sensation, 1966: Yves St Laurent has taken over at Dior, 1970: A feminine and elegant silhouette
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    From left to right: 1986: Bold colours and fluid shapes, 1998s: Galliano's exotic touch, 2007: Fresh from the Paris catwalk

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    Spectacular: The flamboyant John Galliano at the 2007 Dior Haute Couture show
     
  2. The event will be the fashion show, costing upwards of £2 million (lakes have been drained, obscure and exotic birds plucked, the most expensive models in the world roused out of bed, rain clouds probably kidnapped), showcasing the new autumn/winter couture collection from the house of Dior.


    The label's designer, John Galliano, will no doubt take a bow at the end of the show dressed as an astronaut or a pirate, depending on what tickles his fancy.


    And the fashion editors and the film stars seated on tiny gilt chairs will give a standing ovation, before teetering across the lawns in high heels sipping vintage champagne, with which they will toast their own fabulousness.
    The crazy, magical scene this evening, which will mark the beginning of couture week, will be a far cry from the very first Dior couture show, presented on February 12, 1947, when most of the fashion editors and pretty much all the Americans had gone home.
    Only 18 buyers turned up for that first Dior show, and my goodness I bet they were glad they did. Because on that day 60 years ago fashion changed for ever. And if you have ever wondered how the rarefied business that is Parisian couture (a hand-made, hand-beaded couture dress can, today, cost £200,000) could possibly have any relevance or impact on your life, you are about to be enlightened.
     
  3. Christian Dior was born in Normandy in 1907 and was brought up in a very prosperous family: his father imported guano, which might have been bird droppings, but also happened to be very lucrative (it was used in gunpowder and as fertiliser).
    Christian studied in Paris, and opened an avant-garde art gallery. But it wasn't all plain sailing. In the Wall Street Crash of 1929 he and his family lost everything.
    And so to earn money he started illustrating hats for fashion magazines and newspapers. Because of his skill he was hired by a couturier, and met the formidable Carmel Snow, of American Harper's Bazaar, who was to be a lifelong champion.
    After the war (during which the French fashion industry shut down; Christian was able to eat only by growing vegetables), he set up a couture house on his own. Young women flocked from all over France to be chosen as house models (confusingly, in France models were known as mannequins, while dresses were called modeles).
    But no matter how beautiful these women were, Dior only chose those he considered "chic".
    More important than beauty was elegance, and at Dior there were always two mannequins over the age of 50, with grey hair. Dior abhorred artifice; he reasoned that customers came in all shapes and sizes, and the Dior house mannequins reflected that.
     
  4. One, Victoire, confesses she was, "short, with too-big bosoms; but Dior liked to surprise people".
    The house mannequins would show clothes to clients for two hours each day; Dior thought that if the girls worked longer hours than that they would be too exhausted. No need for a Model Health Inquiry in those days, thank goodness.
    When Dior unveiled that very first collection of 90 modeles, there was pandemonium. Each dress was always given a name, and in that first collection one outfit stood out: the "bar" (perhaps it was meant to be worn for cocktails), a long navy wool, full ballerina skirt teamed with a cream jacket, which had a nipped-in waist, full hips (Dior had been inspired by a Parisienne fishmonger), soft shoulders and full breasts, all finished off with a pair of delightfully pointy shoes.
    The "bar" suit cost £50, and Carmel Snow famously dubbed it the "New Look". At that time, because of the shortage of fabric after the war, women habitually dressed in short skirts, with big shoulders and heavy shoes.
    Despite the fact that when Dior went to the U.S. to promote his designs, women outside Neiman Marcus demonstrated against the shocking extravagance of his clothes (the skirt alone contained 20 yards of fabric), the New Look was a huge success.
    of the "bar" will be on show at the V&A's Golden Age of Couture exhibition in September. Sadly, the original wore out but, fortuitously, other Dior originals-have been rescued for the exhibition and restored: Dior's glamorous 1954 Zemire dress, with its full skirt and long jacket, was found not long ago in a cellar in Paris. Not only was Dior's New Look revolutionary, he was way ahead of his time when it came to the business of selling clothes, and becoming a global brand.
     
  5. He was the first designer to understand the importance of designing accessories and putting his name to a scent, and consequently his business made a 900 per cent return in three years.
    Seven years after he opened his doors on the Avenue Montaigne, he grossed £7 million annually, accounting for over half of all Parisienne couture exports. He was a business wizard.
    He came up with the modern concepts of licensing and advertising, and branched out into bags, gloves, men's ties and costume jewellery.
    He was a dab hand, too, at publicity and clever marketing. He once said: "Gossip, even malicious rumours, are worth more than the most expensive publicity campaign in the world."
    Famous women, including Olivia de Havilland, Vivien Leigh, Princess Margaret, Grace Kelly and even Eva Peron were photographed in his designs.
    He worked mostly with wool, which was fine for Britain and France, but in America, with its new fangled central heating, his clothes were too hot (Dior was the first to design sleeveless tweed dresses for day, and to line a Mackintosh with mink), and so he would refine the weight of the cloth according to climate.
    Dior went from strength to strength. In the Fifties came the A-line and the Y-line and the H-line (which many thought unflatteringly flat-chested), and while the silhouette evolved, his greatest gift emerged: he ensured that every woman who wore his designs was given a great shape.
    Unlike today, when women are expected to diet and exercise to fit the flimsiest of unstructured gowns, all of Dior's dresses and jackets had an inbuilt corset to mould its wearer into the perfect shape, which for Mr Dior meant possessing the ideal waist measurement of just 22in.
    Each customer had her own tailor's dummy, on which the toile was made, and had to put aside three weeks each season for the painstaking fittings.
    No wonder, despite the fact there are more super rich people on the planet than ever before, the couture client base is dwindling; women today just can't find the time to stand for hours having pins stuck in them.
    Dior's crinolines, bustles and draping were all inspired by the great Charles Worth. Dior loved bows, dots, houndstooth, earrings, pink, sable, and intricate embroidery; it could take five weeks to complete a dress; only after ten years would a seamstress be deemed sufficiently qualified to touch a Dior creation.
    Christian Dior was a very shy man, with a high, soft voice. His chauffered car would circle the HQ on the Avenue Montaigne, where it still stands today, because he was too afraid to enter.
    He also preferred never to touch the models, merely poking at them with a long stick.
    On finally entering the HQ, all the employees, including Dior himself, stripped down to their underwear, and put on a blouse, like a surgical white coat. The designing of fashion was a serious business, after all.
    Sadly, Dior died prematurely. In 1957, he went on holiday to Italy to lose weight (he was a diabetic), had a large meal, and died of a heart attack.
    He was succeeded by the mercurial Yves Saint Laurent, who had joined Dior aged 18 as an assistant, and who came up with the simple, youthful trapeze line, as revolutionary in its day as the New Look had been.
    His next collection, though, bombed, contributing to Saint Laurent's depression, but he soon bounced back with the "cocoon" shape in 1960, and the Beatnik collection later that same year, almost a decade ahead of its time.
    This year's V&A exhibition, which as well as clothes by Dior will feature 100 designs by Cristobal Balenciaga, Pierre Balmain, Hardy Amies and Worth of London among many others, has a final display of a collection of dresses by John Galliano, who took over the helm at Dior in 1997.
    It was a surprising appointment: Galliano, who was brought up in South London, turned up for the interview sporting dreadlocks and bare feet. But like Dior, Galliano is a visionary.
    And like Dior and his fishmonger, Galliano finds inspiration in the unlikeliest muses: one collection was inspired by the homeless people on the banks of the Seine.
    And, just like Christian Dior, whose creations were copied and cheaply run up by manufacturers such as Susan Small, the Philip Green of her day, the genius that is Galliano is worn or carried or dabbed behind the ears of more women around the world than that of any other designer.
    It was Galliano, after all, who almost single-handedly invented the cult of the designer label bag.
    His It bags, Saddle bags, Detective bags and Gaucho bags can be found on the arm of every celebrity you can think of, their shapes and numerous tiny pockets copied and reproduced in High Street shops the length and breadth of the country, which is how Galliano has managed to quadruple his own ready-to-wear sales in his ten-year tenure.
    You might think the extravaganza we will be witnessing tonight to be hopelessly rarefied and irrelevant, but I promise you that, one day soon, you will be wearing something influenced by that show, be it a curvy nipped-in jacket, or a swing coat, a bell sleeve or even just the faint scent of lily of the valley, Msr Dior's favourite flower, which draped the coffin at his funeral.
    • The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957 is at the V&A from September 22, 2007 until January 6 2008.




    By LIZ JONES -
     
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    Purple reign: Lily Cole makes a dazzling appearance in Paris
     
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    The dream team: models including Linda Evangelista (second from left), Naomi Campbell and Giselle Bundchen join designer John Galliano on stage after the show
     
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    Catwalk veterans Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell prove they haven't lost their touch
     
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    Models show off Galliano's dramatic designs
     
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    Kate Hudson and Jessica Alba bring a touch of Hollywood glamour to the event
     
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    Charlize Theron teams up with couturier-in-residence John Galliano
     
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    Actress Charlize Theron and burlesque star Dita Von Teese opt for full length and fabulous
     
  13. interesting read. thanks for posting.
     
  14. 2 million pfund? no wonder our world is screwed up. when people have nothing to do when spending the money for a fashion show, only the rich and famous have access to.
     
  15. Many thanks Prada's Meadow

    Dita looks AMAZING!!!!

    I'll have to check out the show on style.com