Monday, 19 April 2010

Reflections on Christian Dior

I've been reading up on Dior in the sunshine over the weekend (while also wondering how the volcanic cloud must be impacting on Planet Fashion, where it always seems like a quarter of the people are in the air at any one time).

Dior's past rang two bells. One was a tea I had with Joan Burstein, owner of Browns, at her beautiful Hampstead home in the delightfully named Vale of Heath, which has a view to die for. The City in the distance looked like Camelot in the late afternoon sun. I was there to take tea - a gracious occasion with this most elegant of women - and to interview Joan about the fortieth anniversary of Browns coming up this year. Mrs B told me how exciting it was in 1947 for a young woman just married, as she was then, to be able to dress in Dior's New Look, which was unveiled that same year - even though the fabric needed for the huge skirts was way beyond the coupons allowed in those days of post-war rationing. But Joan's new husband sold fabrics, so.... It was the beginning of her love affair with clothes that has lasted for over forty years with her shop in South Molton Street.

The other thing that occurred to me was how much the influence of a couturier prevails years after he has gone. I am spending quite a bit if time at Dior in Paris researching a book. The atmosphere is still very Dior, even though Christian Dior himself died in 1957. Soft grey was his favourite colour - because he was a great anglophile and it reminded him of England - and it is still the colour of Dior decoration. He loved big armchairs painted white with grey cushions - and they are still there too. I remember a famous story about a young fashion artist in the fifties who went to the Dior shownroom to draw some clothes for her magazine. Dior was the grandest fashion house in Paris, so she was very nervous. As she waited for the first model to appear, she unscrewed the top of her black Indian ink. Her shaking hands dropped the bottle and to her horror the black stain spread across the pale grey fitted carpet.

Don't you just burn for her, even fifty years later?

1 comment:

  1. I had the joy of going to a Dior show ... must have been about '53 ... in those days one sat on little gold chairs, no runway but the models paced through the showrooms ... same show every afternoon .. so different clients could get to order ... I was a student vendeuse, so was only given a ticket at the end of the run. All very pale grey [yes my heart does bleed for her!] and distinguished and quietly elegant. No razzmatazz, no photographers. I was outraged [so young I was] that one of the models was an 'old' lady! Immensely chic and tiny in that inimitable French way ... I had not realised that most of the clients were 'old', so it was very practical to show the clothes on a real person, not only on six foot models.