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Universe/Vendome, 1996 - Art - 79 pages
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Postwar Paris seemed at last to have its lights turned on again in February 1947 when the mild-manner, forty-two-year-old Christian Dior (1905-1957) presented his first collection to a Europe still cold, dark, hungry, and threatened with Soviet invasion. As his models came down the runway - their waists cinched, their busts neatly pointed above bone-stiffened bodices, their calf-length skirts full and flaring, their heads fetchingly coiffed in "coolie" hats - they seemed to sweep the air clean of defeat and depression. Dior, born into a middle-class Norman family, had abandoned studies in political science first to study music and then to run an art gallery. When the latter failed he turned to his talent for fashion sketches and began selling to the Paris newspapers. In 1938 Dior joined the fashion house of Robert Piguet and in 1940 that of Lucien Lelong, where he worked until the cotton magnate Marcel Boussae staked him to his own house and the historic collection of 1947. Over the next decade Dior introduced such landmark features as mink stolls, two-strand pearl chokers, cart-wheel hats, barrel coats, the H-line, the A-line and the Y-line, sheaths and the chemise or sack dress. But it was his elegant silhouette and sculptured structures that influenced a generation of women and designers. Dior was the first French couture house to establish its own company on New York's Seventh Avenue and cater directly to the American market. This beautifully compact and illustrated book brings alive a great adventure, a period of dazzling rebirth led by Christian Dior, the modest, unassuming genius who made the phoenix fly again.

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