French couturier whose ‘New Look’ did much to rejuvenate the French fashion industry immediately after World War II. He was made a Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur in recognition of his services to French fashion.
The son of a wealthy industrialist, Dior began by designing clothes for his sisters; in his early teens he won a prize for a fancy dress costume he designed for a ball. He studied political science at the National School of Political Science in Paris and was initially destined for a career in the diplomatic corps. However, in the early 1930s he opened an art gallery in the Rue la Boètie to promote the works of such young artists as Salvador Dali and Christian Béraud. A bout of ill health forced Dior to leave Paris to convalesce and he travelled extensively. During this period he also worked as an illustrator for Le Figaro and designed for Robert Piguet. At the outbreak of World War II he served in the French army (1939–40) and, following the occupation, joined his sister in the country. In 1942 he started working as a fashion designer for Lucien Lelong and four years later, in collaboration with Marcel Boussac, a millionaire textile manufacturer, Dior set up his own fashion house. His first memorable collection was presented in the spring of 1947 and introduced a highly feminine ‘New Look’ with narrow-waisted tightly fitted bodices and full pleated skirts. The extravagance of the style in the austere postwar period provoked some criticism but it proved very popular and, with its generous use of fabric, was welcomed by the textile industry.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945) — Industrial and Commercial Art.