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Jean Ozenne, who was designing for couture houses, introduced Dior to the fashion world and to his clientele. At the age of thirty, Dior devoted himself to studying fashion drawing, referring only to what he knew and appreciated of Edward Molyneux, Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Jeanne Lanvin. He managed to sell his first sketches of hats and then of dresses. His clients were fashionable hat makers and couture houses but he "also sold ideas to foreign buyers." Publication of his drawings in Le figaro produced his first public recognition. In 1937 the couturier Robert Piguet selected four of his designs and asked him to produce them for his "half-collection" (midseason collection). Christian Dior was just thirty-two, and these were, he said, the "first dresses that I really created."

In June 1938 Robert Piguet offered him a position as a designer in his couture studio located at the Rond Point of the Champs Élysées. There he designed three collec-

Christian Dior Costume Designer

Christian Dior. Christian Dior opened his first salon in Paris in 1946 and had expanded his network of shops to twenty-four countries before his death by a heart attack in 1957. The

Library of Congress. Public Domain.

Christian Dior. Christian Dior opened his first salon in Paris in 1946 and had expanded his network of shops to twenty-four countries before his death by a heart attack in 1957. The

Library of Congress. Public Domain.

tions in a row. The second contained his "first wide dresses," inspired by dresses worn by young heroines of the French second empire children's literature "les petites filles modèles" (well-behaved little girls). They were characterized by a "raised bust, round width starting from the waist, petticoat of English embroidery." As the creator of a successful design called "English coffee," he was introduced to Carmel Snow, editor of Harper's Bazaar. In 1939 his last prewar collection for Piguet launched the line of what came to be called "amphora dresses" marking the "beginning of rounded hips." In parallel with his work as a designer, Dior designed theater costumes for individual clients. He dressed, for example, the actress Odette Joyeux in Captain Smith by Jean Blanchon (at the théâtre des Mathurins, December 1939) and in The School for Scandal by Richard Sheridan (at the same theater, February 1940).

Dior was mobilized at the outbreak of war in 1939 and then joined his family in the unoccupied zone of France after the 1940 armistice. Piguet, still in Paris, asked him to resume his prewar position, but Dior was late in replying and found the position already taken by Antonio del Castillo in the fall of 1941. Dior then went to work for Lucien Lelong, together with another young designer, Pierre Balmain. The two shared design responsibilities throughout the war: "Balmain and I never forgot that Lelong taught us our profession in the midst of the worst restrictions," said Dior. The personality of Lucien Lelong, the clever president of the Chambre syndicate de la couture parisienne (association of haute couture) throughout the German occupation of France, deeply influenced the future couturier. After his study trip to the United States in 1935 and the launch of his Edition line, Dior had developed an interest in foreign markets and high-end ready-to-wear. In contrast, he saw fashion under the German occupation as "appalling" and exclaimed: "With what vengeful joy did I do the opposite later."

It was nonetheless a productive period for him: films (Le Lit à colonne by Roland Tual [1942], Lettre d'amour [1942] and Sylvie et le fantôme [1945] by Claude Autant-Lara, Échec au roi by Jean-Paul Paulin [1943], and Paméla; ou, L'énigme du temple by Pierre de Hérain [1945]) and Marcel L'Herbier's play Au petit bonheur (at the théâtre Gramont, December 1944) gave him the opportunity to escape from the textile rationing that governed ordinary clothing and to conceive, often for Odette Joyeux, historically inspired costumes full of long dresses and extravagant designs.

After the Liberation, Dior's colleague Pierre Balmain opened his own couture house in 1945 on rue François Ier and encouraged Dior to do the same. Marcel Boussac, a major French textile manufacturer and president of the cotton-marketing syndicate, offered Dior the artistic direction of the Gaston firm (formerly called Philippe et Gaston) on rue Saint-Florentin. Considering the business outmoded, Dior suggested instead that he start a couture house "where everything would be new, from the state of mind and the personnel to the furnishings and the premises," in view of the fact "that foreign markets, after the long stagnation of fashion due to the war, were bound to demand really new fashions." Marcel Boussac invested sixty million francs in the project.

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