Elizabeth Parke Firestone and Christian Dior

The Henry Ford

A look at the careful selections behind a stunning wardrobe.

Elizabeth Parke Firestone and Christian Dior

Elizabeth Parke Firestone (1897-1990) had a passion for clothing design and a keen awareness of the fabrics, colors, and styles that suited her best. Mrs. Firestone’s relationship with Christian Dior illustrates the refined sense of fashion she cultivated through years of collaboration with world-renowned couturiers.

Mrs. Firestone was an early and faithful client of Paris designer Christian Dior. She received this personalized scarf, sent on behalf of Dior, as a Christmas gift in 1956.

Elizabeth Parke Firestone 
Elizabeth Parke was a trim, blue-eyed beauty. The daughter of a prosperous merchant in Decatur, Illinois, she attended school in Europe, studying French, learning about applied and fine arts, and nurturing her eye for fashion.

In 1921, Elizabeth Parke wed Harvey S. Firestone, Jr., son of the founder of Firestone Tire and Rubber Company.

Wedding Dress Worn by Elizabeth Parke Firestone, 1921

Elizabeth Parke Firestone likely made her own intricately-designed wedding dress.

Throughout their 52-year marriage, the always stylish Mrs. Firestone represented her husband and family in the most influential business and social circles of the time.

Buying Dior
In 1947, Christian Dior debuted his ultra-feminine “New Look,” revolutionizing women’s dress after World War II and reestablishing Paris as a center of fashion. That same year, Mrs. Firestone -- who favored New York and Paris design houses to meet her high fashion standards -- visited House of Dior and chose this dress for her daughter’s highly publicized wedding.

Letter from Marguerite Carre (House of Dior) to Elizabeth Parke Firestone, November 4, 1952

A frequent Dior customer during the late-1940s and 1950s, Mrs. Firestone visited the Paris salon when possible but also shopped from home in Akron, Ohio, responding to fashion sketches, fabric swatches, and pricing information sent from Dior’s agents. Garments purchased this way were fitted at House of Dior on a dress form sized for Mrs. Firestone.

Letter from Elizabeth Parke Firestone to Madam Claude, House of Dior, April 26, 1956

Mrs. Firestone was a knowledgeable customer. She respected Dior’s vision and often deferred to his agents, but she also communicated her opinions about color, fabrics, and what styles best suited her slim figure.

"Fete a Neuilly"
Dior Design Drawing, 1955

Sometimes, Mrs. Firestone purchased clothing exactly as it appeared in Dior’s original design drawing.

"Fete a Neuilly"
Dior Evening Dress, 1955

This evening ensemble incorporated nearly every design element visible in the drawing – from the shawl and placement of embroidery to the embellishment itself.

Dior Design Drawing, 1957

Red was a favorite color choice of Dior, who proposed this cocktail dress in red.

Dior Cocktail Dress, 1957

Mrs. Firestone, who preferred blue, requested it in a deep midnight shade.

Letter from Elizabeth Parke Firestone to Madame Azemar, House of Dior, October 9, 1953

Mrs. Firestone purchased many garments and accessories for her distinctive wardrobe through written correspondence with Dior. She weighed each decision carefully. In the first of this four-page letter to Dior, Mrs. Firestone commented on four design drawings:

Dior Design Drawing, 1953-1954

“The evening robe Odette I would like very much but only if you are able to obtain the model in white satin with a bright, light sapphire blue flower. The evening dress as is I have seen in several collections in New York, and, therefore, I do not care to have it in black and white.”
– Elizabeth Parke Firestone

Dior Design Drawing, 1953-1954

“I can’t choose between Brise Bise and Londres.”
– Elizabeth Parke Firestone

Dior Design Drawing, 1953-1954

“I prefer Brise Brise, but I do not like the buttons down the front of the skirt. I like the material in blue which you sent for this dress and suppose that the bow and the gathers would be high--about the bust line--and that the gathers would not be too many for me. It appears to be the ‘tulip look’ that I liked so much this spring…”
– Elizabeth Parke Firestone

Dior Design Drawing, 1953-1954

“The evening dress Fanny is the only model you did not send me a price for, and I would appreciate your cabling me the price. I would like this unless the price is too high.”
– Elizabeth Parke Firestone

Dior Evening Dress, 1953-1954

The price Dior quoted for “Fanny” was apparently agreeable -- Mrs. Firestone ultimately purchased the evening dress.

Letter from Elizabeth Parke Firestone to Christian Dior (Through Marguerite Carre), September 20, 1955

For the 1955 reopening of the Vienna Opera House, Mrs. Firestone commissioned an “extremely spectacular” Dior gown, “something in sapphire blue with diamonds.”

Dior Evening Dress Worn to Vienna Opera House Reopening, 1955

Dior’s translation of Mrs. Firestone’s request for something “extremely spectacular” was this stunning evening dress embellished with metallic threads, sequins, and rhinestones.

Note Regarding Dior Dress for Vienna Opera House Reopening, November 1955

Elizabeth Parke Firestone was photographed extensively in her custom-made Dior gown at the event. She later noted proudly that her dress "was the only one mentioned in all the Paris papers."

More Dior from Mrs. Firestone's Closet
Over the years, Dior made many garments for Elizabeth Parke Firestone, from elegant evening gowns and suits to day dresses and accessories.
Credits: Story

From The Henry Ford Archive of American Innovation™.

See more of Mrs. Firestone's Dior garments and fashion sketches in The Henry Ford’s digital collections.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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