The Dressmaker’s Library: “Christian Dior: The early years 1947-1957”

Cover of “Christian Dior: The early years 1947-1957”.

“Christian Dior: The early years 1947-1957” is a treasure trove of inspiration and insight into the House of Dior during the years from 1947-1957.

The love and loyalty Dior inspired in his models, workers, seamstresses, salespeople and other employees comes across as you delve into the book. There are anecdotes and memories shared by those who worked at and with Dior during his early years. Esmeralda de Rethy did an excellent job of interviewing them and providing the reader with clear and sharp word portraits that bring the designer to life in a very immediate way.

“Place Vendome, 1949”. Original sketch by Dior (small), along with larger sketch by The House of Dior Design department. Photo of finished model.

There are included in the book original sketches by Dior of styles from his collections. These are grouped on a page, or next to a page, containing the sketches made by the Design Department based on the initial sketch made by Dior. Photos of many of the finished dresses are also included. You will be able to see that sometimes Dior provided a mere outline of what his vision for the dress was, at other times the details were very specific. His ideas were always studied by the Head Seamstresses, the studios and the Design Department in a collaborative effort to bring the idea to life. What actually was made sometimes was very close and at other times very different from the original sketch.

Photos of swatches of the fabric used for some of Dior’s early designs.

Photographs of fabric swatches used for these dresses, along with worksheets containing information about yardage, fabric type, notions and other details are also included in the book.

What a modern day sewist will also find of interest are the photos showing the seamstresses at work. They sat together in groups in rooms containing signs urging them to remain loyal to the house and not betray design secrets. The rooms were without any decoration and fabric was everywhere. They were also crowded together.

There are even photographs of the dress forms called “stockman” custom padded to create a facsimile of a client’s figure. Based on what I saw in the photos, some of them were far from attractive or fit!

“Christian Dior: The early years 1947-1957” is published by Vendome Press. Many used copies in good condition are available at Amazon. I bought a second hand copy in excellent condition for $35.


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