Born and raised in Normandy, Dior led a relatively protected childhood. His youth was spent at a villa surrounded by gardens. As Christian Dior got older he started studying political science and served in the military. His design career started around 1935 when he came back to Paris to sell sketches and develop his creative vision. But during his progress of becoming a fashion designer Christian Dior was interrupted by the Second World War in which he had to serve for three years. After the war, prominent textile manufacturer Marcel Boussac, invited Christian Dior to design for Philippe et Gaston but Dior refused, wishing to make a fresh start under his own name rather than reviving an old brand. And so he did, with the financial support of Boussac, Dior established the House of Dior in 1946.
The introduction of the New Look
A year later at the age of 42, his very first collection was launched, in which he introduced the 'New Look'. A fairytale collection of ballerina-length skirts, narrow shoulders, hand-span waists, embroidery, beading and silk. The two lines that Christian Dior introduced were originally called "Corolle" and "Huit". However it received the name New Look as the editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar exclaimed, "It's such a New Look". Christian Dior was convinced his New Look was very appropriate for the post-war era. Women left the workplace, to return to their roles as housewives and mothers again. The New Look took women back to the more simple, traditional days of their great-grandmothers. "I wanted my dresses to be constructed, shaped on the curves of the feminine body and stylizing those curves" Dior said. Despite some protestors, Dior’s New Look was an overwhelming success. In 1949, Dior fashions made up 75% of Paris’s fashion exports and 5% of France’s total export revenue.
Characteristics of the New Look
The New Look transformed the square shoulders of the war era into more feminine, soft, sloping shoulders, inspired by pre-Civil War fashions. In nearly all Dior designs, this look was achieved by the use of shoulder pads. Another characteristic of the New Look was the tiny waist. An ingredient that was essential for the New Look was a corset. Dior's own corset was named the Waspie. This was a modern version of the Victorian Corset which was five inches deep and made of stiff fabric with elastic inserts. Besides the corset Dior frequently lined the waists of his skirts and dresses with feather boning to create a smaller waist. The "Waspie" also accentuated the bust. In addition, the New Look used push-up bras which contained rubber padding to help fill out the bust line. Like with the bust, the Waspie already added fullness to the hip area but Dior's suits also contained padding at the hips to achieve an ever more feminine look. He added flounces or peplums to the back of his suit tops and built back flounces in his skirts.