Nineteen fifty-seven was the best of times and the worst of times for Christian Dior. He was celebrating 10 stellar years in the fashion business, and on this day in 1957, landed on the cover of Time magazine wielding an enormous pair of scissors, solemnly prepared to conquer the next textile. It was only the fifth time a fashion designer had graced the cover, a spot typically reserved for the most serious of politicians and businessmen.
But after 10 years in the business, Dior was at the top of his game. Having cornered 66 percent of the high fashion export market after introducing the New Look upon his debut in 1947, he could afford to sit back and sip a cognac at his mansion in Paris, his Fontainebleau farmhouse or Chateau Dior, his “humble” estate in Provence. It doesn’t get much better than that unless, of course, you drop dead, which he also did that same year. Dior died of a heart attack, either while playing cards or in a compromising position, if you will, depending on which story you prefer to believe.
Though the nine-page feature story in Time proclaimed the sexy Read More »
The year was 1914 and Madeleine Vionnet had just established her own maison of couture. She was already a seasoned dressmaker—she’d begun her first apprenticeship at age 11 nearly 30 years earlier—by the time World War I came banging down France’s door, and the designer responded by shuttering her own and fleeing to Rome. It might have been devastating timing for a lesser designer, but closing her Parisian atelier just two years after opening it provided the catalyst for Vionnet’s greatest inspirational encounters.
Once in Italy, Vionnet found herself immersed in the arts of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. Those works became a fascination that would provide the basis of her style aesthetic from the time she returned to Paris and re-established her maison in 1919 until she died on this day in 1975, at the indomitable age of 98 years old. “I like to look at old costumes and fashions of times gone by because of what they say about their times,” Vionnet explained in an interview published in French Vogue a month after her death. Vionnet’s designs were, “not for fashion,” she explained. “I only like that which lasts forever.” Certainly the flowing drapery and dynamic swaths of cloth that covered women in antiquity inspired her work, but Vionnet did more than give rise to a second renaissance for the classical era. Read More »
Yesterday’s Christian Lacroix post got me missing the man, not to mention those phenomenal tights and leggings, like these from his fall 2008 and spring 2008 couture collections. The House of Lacroix only officially closed its doors just a little over a year ago (the final, hastily thrown together couture show was held on July 7, 2009), but it already seems like much longer, doesn’t it? It’s true what Heidi says, one day you’re in, and the next you are out. I’d love to post a tutorial someday on how to make ombre tights, like the pink ones above and the three examples below—it’s ridiculously easy. But the silkscreened pair on the top far left stole my heart. Can a pair of tights be a masterpiece? In this case, I do believe so. Read More »
“I don’t want to be a prisoner of success…I want to be free.” —French couturier Christian Lacroix speaking to the press in 1987, shortly after announcing he was leaving the House of Patou after six years to launch his namesake label. When asked for hints about the look of the first Christian Lacroix collection, the designer responded, “Bustles are Patou. Lacroix must be something else.” After years of financial problems, the House of Lacroix closed in December 2009. Read More »
This illustration from January 1926 is one of my favorite vintage Vogue covers, mostly because it features one of my favorite overlooked artists, Sonia Delaunay. (I’m also especially fond of the charmingly awkward style of famed illustrator Georges Lepape.) This isn’t to say Delaunay was ignored during her lifetime; she had a solo exhibition at the Louvre in 1964, a first for a living female artist, and here she is on the cover of Vogue. She was included in numerous group exhibitions, contributed to fashion, film and theater, and—along with her husband—founded Orphism, the art movement that seeks to depict simultaneous expressions of modern life, energy and movement through color. So as far as female artists go, now or then, Delaunay is certainly one of the more celebrated. And yet she is still unknown to most people. Go figure.