Christian Dior: The New Look

Christian Dior is one of the most important couturiers of the 20th century

By The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

"Bar"The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Christian Dior's reputation as one of the most important couturiers of the twentieth century was launched in 1947 with his very first collection, in which he introduced the "New Look." Featuring rounded shoulders, a cinched waist, a very full skirt, the "New Look" celebrated ultra-femininity and opulence in women's fashion. After years of military and civilian uniforms, sartorial restrictions and shortages, Dior offered not merely a new look, but a new outlook.  Born in Normandy, France, Dior moved with his parents to Paris when he was ten years old. After studying political science, he served in the military. His design career did not begin until 1935 when he returned to Paris and began selling sketches. The designer Robert Piguet hired him in 1938. During World War II, Dior served in the south of France, then returned again to Paris in 1941 and worked for Lucien Lelong at a much larger design house. In 1946, backed by textile manufacturer Marcel Boussac, he opened his own house. 

"Bar"The Metropolitan Museum of Art

"Bar"Jacket, spring/summer 1947

Dior's "New Look" collection was a repudiation of the styles of the 1920s and 1930s, and it was also clearly indebted to the styles and body-shapers of the late 19th century. The Bar suit was considered the most iconic model in the collection, manifesting all the attributes of Dior's dramatic atavism.Documents in the Dior archives demonstrate that the original version of the "Bar" suit employed a notched collar. This variation with a shawl collar, perhaps the result of a client's demand, was officially photographed by Dior at the time of its creation, indicating the imprimatur of the House of Dior.

"Bar"The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Although Dior created many notched collars, he was a fervent advocate of shawl collars and curved necklines. Arguably, the shawl collar plays effectively with the curvaceous forms Dior articulated at the shoulders and hips. The notched lapel is more often found in the work of Adrian and other suit makers of the 1940s who stressed angled geometries.

The "Bar" suit also reveals the hand stitching at the inside of the collar and hand-stitched self-covered buttons of the atelier tailleur.

"Chérie" (spring/summer 1947) by Christian DiorThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dinner dress, spring/summer 1947

"Chérie" exemplifies "The New Look" in all its salient elements: sloped shoulder, raised bustline, narrowed waist, and a monumental volume of skirt falling away from a padded hipline to below the calf. The New Look arrived uncompromised and complete, not as a tentative suggestion or stage in evolution. Here, the skirt is made of the full width of the fabric, selvage to selvage, disposed horizontally. Consequently, at the waist the necessary folding under of the pleated fullness creates a compressed, 13-and-1/2 yard seam allowance, the substantial bulk of which pads the hips.

This virtuoso achievement in dressmaking was reached by the compression of vast volume into an adjoining sculptural reduction. "Chérie" contains over 13-and-1/2 yards of fabric that are pleated into the wasp waist. The accomplishment of grand to mince is possible only because of the couture’s expert manipulation of cloth. Dior prided himself on the handwork in his creations, especially when the craft generates formal possibility. Here, the stitches that anchor each pleat can actually be seen. Signs of artisanry, they are not obsessively hidden.

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.
Explore more
Related theme
We Wear Culture
The stories behind what we wear
View theme
Google apps