The Drawings of Christian Dior
Combining interviews with experts and animations of Christian Dior's sketches, this documentary tells the story of the brand that epitomized midcentury glamour. It connects the past to the future by asking how the fashion house operates today.
Narrator: Between 1947 and 1957, Christian Dior
would make a name for himself
and become the equivalent of a dictator
on the length of skirts.
It's a first and it will never happen again
that one man alone decides the major changes
in fashion for a decade.
In Paris, in a place whose address is kept secret,
a treasure is kept -- the drawings of Christian Dior.
Drawings, which are still consulted today
because they are the fuel which feeds the enormous machine
that is Dior fashion,
one of the most prestigious in the world, a juggernaut.
For the first time, the House of Dior has agreed
to unveil the thousands of drawings in their entirety.
To show them to former seamstresses
from the House of Dior.
Female Interpreter: Everything he did was, it was heaven.
[ Speaks French ]
Narrator: To those close to Mr. Dior...
Male Interpreter: Christian Dior was really someone
who made a lifelong impression.
Narrator: ...to fashion historians...
Female Interpreter #2: This, on the other hand, I've never seen.
Narrator: ...to former sales assistants.
Female Interpreter #3: It was a huge jump to send out the sketches.
Narrator: ...to the House of Dior specialists.
Has anybody ever seen this before?
Male Interpreter: No. We've never shown it before.
Female Interpreter #4: It's so emotional. [ Laughs ]
[ Gasps ]
Female Interpreter #5: It just takes a few details to show the silhouette,
the movement and to evoke the whole thing.
Narrator: These drawings tell an astonishing story
of 20th century fashion
and speak of their designer, Mr. Christian Dior.
As famous as he was, mysterious.
Female Interpreter #2: Fashion design saved him.
Narrator: These are the drawings
that made him one of the masters of fashion.
Female Interpreter #6: So many sketches, because in each collection
there were sometimes 170 designs.
Narrator: We are going to discover his very first sketches
on tracing paper, his first hats in gouache
with which he finally made money in the 1930s.
His incredible premonitory
drawings for Le Figaro newspaper,
his first technical drawings for a couture house,
and his masterpieces for the House of Dior.
The draft of the Junon dress and the evening dresses
in which rich Americans danced after the war --
The A line, the H line, and the Y line.
Here for the first time
is the gallery of all his Dior collections.
Ten years, which would dazzle the world
and make rich and famous the man who described himself
as a paunchy Norman farmer.
But beware, these sketches would also be the death of him
because the story of the drawings is also a tragedy.
Here are the sublime and incredible
unseen drawings of Christian Dior.
Madame Gossot started as a seamstress at Christian Dior
and very soon became second in command of the workshop.
And to see her energy intact at 93 years of age,
we can be certain that she was one of the powerhouses
of the Dior workshops.
Female Interpreter: Just a little anecdote.
To get to Dior, I would get off
the Metro at Alma and take Avenue Montaigne.
And in front of the Plaza Athénée,
there was an enormous blockhouse which dated from the War,
that hadn't yet been demolished.
It was an area which was nothing like the Avenue Montaigne
of now, with its magnificent boutiques.
There was not one boutique.
Narrator: And in 1947, were there still restrictions?
Female Interpreter #7: Yes, there were still ration books,
for bread and also for shoes and clothes.
[ Speaking French ]
Female Interpreter #8: We had a house in the country
which was requisitioned by the Germans.
We nearly all got shot there.
-How old were you in 1947? -In 1947, I was born in '43,
so that would make me three years old.
My father had bought -- no, he hadn't bought it.
He had rented a splendid house, which was called La Potagé.
Christian Dior had a small house just opposite ours.
So he took advantage of the winter and the fact
that we weren't there to settle himself into La Potagé
and to create there his entire New Look Collection.
[ Birds chirping ]
[ Bird calls ]
Narrator: It's 1947, we have just emerged from the most atrocious war,
the trauma is still alive,
women's fashion has become simple, utilitarian, khaki.
Dior will inject some pink and fantasy into all that.
Female Interpreter #10: What's amazing is that it's an overnight success story.
The day before his show, he was unknown.
The day after he was a worldwide celebrity.
Narrator: So the first collection is the New Look,
you're pulling a face well.
Well, it's really amazing.
[ Gasps ]
-That's crazy. -Why is it crazy?
Female Interpreter #5: Because you can see a kind of feverish excitement.
The line of the design, the dynamism of the line,
even the kind of madness that there are in these lines,
which are -- it's so fascinating.
If you were to give me this drawing, I wouldn't say no.
-Okay. -Can you make me a photocopy?
-Yes, yes. Let's steal it. -That is sublime.
Female Interpreter #2: Oh, yes. So that I have never seen.
I don't know where it comes from.
It's a study on a theme, a theme of roses.
But what's interesting is that it's not just tacked on there
like that for decoration, it's not decoration.
It compliments the structure of the bustier.
There, for example, it combines with the pleats,
the bustier at the level of the breasts
and the material is held up by the rose.
Female Interpreter #4: This little Aphrodite is really an idealized woman.
She's a goddess, not just a woman.
She's a marvelous creature who we can imagine
is going to appear at a party in this dress
and the people are going to stop talking
and are going to be completely dazzled
by this scintillating woman.
Narrator: Launching the House of Dior is a gamble,
a utopian idea stemming from megalomania or recklessness,
there still isn't a proper storefront.
The nameplate isn't the right size
and hasn't been fixed properly.
The paint is still fresh and hasn't dried yet,
and the models risk getting stains on their dresses
or getting them caught in the ladders.
Christian Dior, has so far, only experienced failure,
illness, and bankruptcy. But we are an Avenue Montaigne
because behind all this is Monsieur Boussac,
a textile giant, the richest man in France, at the time.
Female Interpreter #4: He didn't make his arrival on the quiet.
He was able to invite people.
So the first show was eagerly anticipated.
People had already heard a bit about him
and international journalists were in attendance.
Narrator: Did you attend that show?
Female Interpreter #9: No, no, no.
I definitely wasn't at the show. No, certainly not.
Besides, there was a crazy amount of people.
It was out of the question to have children there,
out of the question.
Narrator: The first show for the 1947 summer collection lasts
two hours, 90 designs are presented.
And the Harper's Bazaar journalist Carmel Snow
calls this revolution the New Look.
Christian Dior has just resurrected France.
It's a triumph,
but also a scandal on an unprecedented scale.
Female Interpreter #8: When he realized the new look talk about controversy.
There really was! He was called every name under the sun.
Female Interpreter #4: The origin of the scandal was these very, very
wide, very full skirts.
And the reason that it shocked people is because it was a time
when there were still rations,
and fabric was very difficult to find.
Anyway his backer, Marcel Boussac,
found materials for Dior to create his first collection.
They said that it was pieces of material from parachutes,
scraps of silk that he happened to have.
Female Interpreter #2: But that's exactly the reason for the success of the New Look,
because even if it was only a symbol and not a reality,
it was the wish to return to the world as it was before
and to a world of abundance.
And the abundance is expressed with fabric,
yards and yards of fabric.
Female Interpreter #7: When we were making the tulle evening dresses,
there were yards of tulle, 20 to 30 yards.
Mr. Dior wasn't really bothered about how many yards were used.
It was, you know, he wanted that and it had to be made like that.
[ Intro to Rossini's "Largo al Factotum" plays ]
♪ Largo al factotum della citta, largo ♪
♪ La-la-la, la, la, la, laaaa ♪
Female Interpreter #4: You could say it's a form of resistance
because they wanted to thumb their nose at totalitarianism,
at the violence, the darkness.
Narrator: What have you brought with you?
Female Interpreter: I brought some souvenirs, some papers.
Narrator: Are those your drawings?
Female Interpreter: These are some drawings that I made.
This is from 1946. It's horrible.
The hats we called chimney hats and then big shoes. Big bags.
Narrator: Interesting contrast. That's 1947, right?
Female Interpreter: Yes. That's when Dior arrived.
So it was just to show you the lack of sophistication
that was there before him.
And then all of a sudden there was an explosion of femininity.
Underneath all that were petticoats.
So in reality, when you were walking it, it was swaying.
It was beautiful.
Narrator: It must have been exceptionally sexy. The boys must have --
Female Interpreter: Oh, yes.
Besides, it's like that I bagged my husband
because he'd just come back from Indo-China.
Narrator: Did you buy a Dior dress like this one?
Female Interpreter: Oh, no, no, no.
Working at Dior, I made my own dresses.
So generally we didn't have the right
because in the workshops it was "copying is stealing,"
"copying is stealing," "copying is stealing."
It was drummed into us.
But automatically if I just made a design that I liked,
I made one for myself afterwards.
As a result, I had a lot of admirers
because I was very well dressed. [ Laughs ]
Narrator: Is that you there?
Female Interpreter: There.
When Dior arrived and he did that, I tell you,
it was pure joy.
Female Interpreter #2: There were perhaps some ideas in the air,
but he expressed them in his collection
with the lengthened skirts,
with the Corolle silhouettes.
Female Interpreter #6: The obvious seminal design in the collection
is the famous bar suit.
Narrator: Do you know there's no drawing of the bar suit?
-No. Really? -Yes, it's been lost.
Narrator: In fact, there is a design of the plan of the bar suit,
a technical design.
But the actual design of the bar suit
from Mr. Dior's own hand has been lost.
Female Interpreter #10: That's the yardage, four and a quarter yards of shantung.
That's very precise.
And no one talks about quarters or three quarters anymore.
It's three, four, 10, 20, or even 100 yards.
And that's it. -Oh, you can use 100 yards.
Female Interpreter #10: We've already used much more for dresses.
You know, in some tulle or other dresses,
we use 300 or 400 yards. -400 yards?
-Yes. -Yorn Michaelsen worked
in the studio with Christian Dior.
Yorn, could you draw a bar suit for us?
Female Interpreter #6: We don't have a drawing of the bar suit.
Male Interpreter: You don't have a bar drawing? No.
You don't have the bar? No.
Right. I'll do the bar for you.
Is that okay? -Thank you, Yorn.
Female Interpreter #11: There we see the bar jacket.
It's still the Dior silhouette.
A kind of Venus de Milo.
Female Interpreter #4: This is the one, visually, which would come to
symbolize the New Look.
With this very pronounced waist,
it's an hourglass, the shape of an hourglass.
Female Interpreter #2: It's a shape which really constricts the waist.
Female Interpreter: #5 And it was easy in the immediate aftermath of the War,
because women had slimmed down due to deprivation.
So it was easier at that time.
Female Interpreter #2: And so there we see it with the fabric here.
The sample. -Is that shantung?
Female Interpreter #2: Yes, absolutely that's shantung.
And it's definitely what's needed to construct
this very architectured line. For the skirt,
it's a softer fabric because we're looking
for the very opposite with the skirt.
The skirt can move and unfold like a Corolle.
Way in which the models walk, at the time,
there's a swing of the hips
which accentuates the fall of the skirt.
Narrator: Dior fragrance launches at the same time with "Miss Dior."
And an entire team of designers work on developing the bottles.
Male Interpreter #2: Miss Dior was launched and tested
in the salons as early as February 1947.
But genius, vision, and perhaps also luck meant
that everything came together in year one of the House of Dior.
Everybody wanted the New Look and Miss Dior immediately.
Narrator: Christian Dior asks Victor Grandpierre to design
for him the baroque units that will display the perfumes
in the boutiques.
And for Diorissimo, that brings to mind Versailles,
one of the key places of the Dior aesthetic.
Bowles: Oh, my God, that's it! Isn't that fabulous?
Oh, my God. Isn't that marvelous?
It's a mid-century evocation of a Belle Epoque evocation
of the 18th century.
It's nostalgia on nostalgia, revival on revival.
It's a sort of post-modern idea of --
Man: First [Indistinct] Marie Antoinette?
Narrator: Success is worldwide.
Immediately, Dior accounts for more than
half of French fashion exports.
Dior is a major factor in the country's balance of trade.
Female Interpreter #4: At the time, if we'd asked people,
which French personalities do you know,
I think the response would have been Charles de Gaulle and Dior.
-Hamish? Hamish. -Yes?
You've got mail. [ Bloop ]
-Can you read it? -"Dearest Marguerite,
I'm absolutely desolate that I won't be able to
come to Paris this autumn.
So many things here demand my attention
that I find it impossible to break away."
It's an American client, Miss Firestone?
Yes, of course it is.
"I do desperately want some Dior clothes and I can't bear
to think of this season without them.
Please write me quickly because it seems to take so long
from the time I order things until they arrive.
And I'm afraid I will have no new clothes for this autumn."
Female Interpreter: I remember an extraordinary client called Lady Mariotte.
She never visited.
As we knew her, I would choose a design I thought she'd like.
She would then send a telegram saying,
"Fine, I want it in 20 colors."
Narrator: There are colors which hurt the eyes a bit
that make them sting, don't you think?
The yellow there, you need sunglasses
to make this dress in yellow.
Female Interpreter: You know, you have to take into account the kind of clients
that you're dealing with. I remember this one.
I think it's the one which had sprigs of lily of the valley
or little cherries with leaves.
Anyway, this lady who bought this,
I remember, was Mrs. Bird.
She must have been 70, 75 years old.
This white organdy dress
with these little cherries turn my stomach.
I said, "No, that should be banned!"
But that's the way it is. She paid. It was fine.
Narrator: The clients arrive en masse and the company hires en masse.
The storefront is finally installed.
The first townhouse in Avenue Montaigne
is soon too small,
and the house of Dior will annex the other buildings.
It happens fast and it will soon go too fast.
What were the most difficult things for you?
Were there some difficult things in life at Dior?
Female Interpreter: Stress.
The stress of not succeeding and of not finishing on time,
for it was always a question of time. It was, uh...
[ Exhales sharply ]
Narrator: Before discovering drawing,
Christian Dior had an unsuccessful career
as a gallery owner,
but as we see from this self-portrait
where he's disguised as Cinderella,
he feels alone in his gallery with his bad paintings
whilst the others are at the ball.
Female Interpreter #4: It's rather amusing because it's rare to find a caricature
like that of Christian Dior -- self flagellating a little.
Narrator: In 1934, the gallery's going under.
Christian Dior is in bad health
and has been ruined by the depression of 1929.
His drawing would save him.
Female Interpreter #2: In fact, fashion design saved him from ruin.
He was in total ruin.
Narrator: Within two years, he will learn to draw thanks
to a couple of cartoonist friends,
Jean Ozenne and Max Kenna.
He copies on tracing paper, a cook and her rolling pen,
a woman who cycles and the detail of her back pocket.
He captures attitudes, often haughty, scarves, drapes.
He's already drawing evening dresses
and ornamentation details.
He learns to draw feet, heads and hats.
He learns to simplify the lines of a feminine face.
It's pure idealization.
Female Interpreter #9: When he was 14 years old, a clairvoyant,
so I heard, a clairvoyant told him that
it would be through women he would experience fame.
Narrator: Quickly, Christian Dior earns a living thanks to his drawings.
He has found his vocation.
It will be drawings and fashion.
I have in front of me the entire collection
Female Interpreter #12: of drawings that Christian Dior created for my mother in 1937
when she started her business. -How did she meet Mr. Dior?
Female Interpreter #12: Mr. Christian Dior
heard about the creation of her company
and showed her all his drawings.
My mother was impressed, so she bought all his drawings,
the 100 or so that he'd showed her.
Firstly, so there wouldn't be others available around Paris.
And also because she fell in love with them.
She found them beautifully crafted, very creative,
and she drew inspiration from them for a year and a half,
say, or two or three seasons.
This one I particularly like because it's a drawing,
a portrait of my mother with a hat that he did at the time.
It's very basic because she like quite minimal
and very basic things. -Are a lot of Mr. Dior's
drawings in the hands of private collectors.
Female Interpreter #12: I'm afraid that a lot were thrown away afterwards.
When the collections are finished,
the drawings are thrown away and you move on.
I know that I have this,
but I've never seen another one elsewhere.
Never seen reproductions. I don't know.
Woman: Lately my hair has been falling out. It's destroyed.
I even have dandruff.
Narrator: Until what year did she make hats?
Female Interpreter #12: Until 1964.
She stopped because women started having beautiful hair.
Until then, the hair dyes weren't perfected.
Women's hair was in bad condition,
so they hit it with hats. And secondly,
you couldn't get into a car with a hat on.
Female Interpreter #11: Mr. Dior hated hair. He preferred hats.
-He hated hair? -Yes, he didn't like hair.
I think that there's a sort of rule with hats.
It must be a bit like the cherry, not the cake.
And he totally understood that. You can tell that, for him,
it's a little signature, a finishing touch.
Narrator: Le Figaro newspaper notices him
and asks him to draw the latest fashion trends,
which he will do until the end of August 1939.
-I've never seen that before. -Really? You've never seen it?
Female Interpreter #11: No. No, because I didn't have access to that.
Narrator: Had you seen these drawings from theFigaro?
Female Interpreter #11: No. No.
Bowles: Here you get into a very recognizably Dior mode,
don't you? On the brink of the War.
I mean, the sleeve, the way it's set in
in a sort of fisu draper, very Dior.
Female Interpreter #11: The length of the jackets.
It's funny, isn't it? It's already the bar.
It's higher and all that, but it's still the shape.
Narrator: Did he learn the ropes there?
Female Interpreter #2: Yes, of course.
Being immersed in the latest trends
is a way for him to learn fashion
because he's obliged to see what the couturiers are doing.
All the couturiers.
Narrator: Is that the first real paid work in his life?
Female Interpreter #11: Yes, but he was completely broke.
It was a bit like his last chance.
Female Interpreter #4: For your holidays, Valentine Bogard,
a royal blue jacket with white flannel trousers.
That clearly brings to mind Saint-Laurent,
the double-breasted blazer vaguely inspired,
inspired by men's fashion.
Female Interpreter #5: The classic outfit, long straight trousers,
the single or double-breasted jacket for men and women.
The only person to have made trousers before was Chanel,
but they were more like pajamas for the beach.
here, it's amazing you found the origin
of Saint-Laurent's tuxedo.
Narrator: And what is amazing is that Mr. Dior
didn't really make any trousers later on.
Female Interpreter #5: No, never. In his time.
People still lived with the aesthetic codes,
which were that of a sophisticated woman.
Sophisticated women didn't wear trousers in the evening.
I think I'd rather wait a bit.
I'm sorry, but I'd rather wait a bit.
[ Clears throat ] [ Wind whistles ]
Narrator: He finds work at Robert Piguet's and then at Lucien Lelong's
the great couturier of wartime Paris,
who succeeds to keep a fashion business
going during the dark years.
It's the occupation. The line is heavier, more rigid.
Female Interpreter #2: With just a few pencil strokes,
The essential is said, which is to say,
the fall of the dress,
the key elements which catch your eye,
whether a seam, an insertion, or, for example, a drape.
Narrator: But there are vamp-ish clothes, too.
Always the search for an ideal.
Do you think there is a fascination for a lost world?
Female Interpreter #2: Certainly. I think it's...it's nostalgia.
Narrator: Christian Dior never drew masculine fashion except in 1942
with these gouache suits for a period film.
And there, for once, he drew a man in a military outfit
and look a ceremonial jacket with well-defined basque,
undoubtedly the precursor to the famous bar suit.
At the end of the War, Christian Dior
you all knows how to draw, knows the workshops,
the shop assistants, the clients, the Press.
He has what it takes to build his house, his esthetic,
and to sustain it season after season.
After 1947 and the success of the New Look,
Dior will have to revolutionize fashion every six months.
In the summer of 1948, the Envol line.
Female Interpreter #13: In this collection, when women move,
he wants the dress to move towards the back like that,
the dress or the coat.
And here you can tell that there really is a big mass
of fabric veering to the side.
Each time, what was very important for Mr. Dior
was never to have motionless sketches.
Here we have the impression that the model is walking
and adjusting her gloves.
Female Interpreter #2: Here, he wanted to create movement in the design
to make the people in charge of the workshops understand
how to achieve this effect when it moves.
Female Interpreter #10: These sketches, these inspirations
we still use them to this day to make the collections.
We still see this often, very, very often.
Narrator: Did you make that for the Cannes festival?
Female Interpreter #10: Not long ago. That's right.
It's often all year round that we remake Mr. Dior's dresses.
We don't necessarily have the patterns.
They don't exist anymore. So we remake them each time.
Narrator: So that means that the drawings
are technically sufficient and readable?
Female Interpreter #10: Oh, they're very well done. Very, very well done.
-In what way? -The outside line is well done.
The detail of the fold or the drape, the way it falls,
the buttons, the belt, everything is well noted.
Narrator: You can see buttons there.
Female Interpreter #10: Yes. I see some there and there.
Everything is well marked up to the gloves.
Narrator: In your opinion, what material is it?
Female Interpreter #10: It's more like a woolen cloth, I think.
It's light, but a woolen cloth.
So, the Trompe l'oeil line, it's one of the lines
which I think is the easiest to recognize.
There are two ways it can be a Trompe l'oeil.
It can either be the volume which is at the top,
either with pockets which are enormously developed,
or also the effects of pockets and drapes with the necklines.
So it's something I would say is not very natural.
Female Interpreter #4: So here we are in the absolute notion
of a ball gown that very few people
will have the opportunity to wear.
It was also a way to put the social classes back
in their place after the War.
This leveling was due to the suffering
of all the social classes,
which put them at the same standing.
After the war, I don't know if it was really
a conscious desire, but in any case,
across fashion, there was this re-polarization
where the people who could buy themselves these outfits
were really the toast of high society.
And in the end, that reminds us a bit of the splendor
of the time of the monarchy.
Junon, like a Junon.
-It's the original one. -That the first idea for Junon?
Female Interpreter #6: The Junon dress is really
Mr. Dior's emblematic evening gown.
And it was it was the first beaded evening dress,
full-skirted, B-to-D evening dress.
She just made every other woman in the room look ridiculous
because she was this goddess. [ Chuckles ]
Narrator: So do you recognize this one?
Female Interpreter #10: That's the Junon, all the petals, the embroidery,
these couple of stitches indicate it's embroidered.
Narrator: When did you last make this?
Female Interpreter #10: Not that long ago, for a bride.
-How did you make it? -In white,
but with modern embroidery.
And the bride wanted a Junon dress.
-That must be a bit expensive. -A little, yes, probably.
But for me, I don't care
if it's expensive as long as we can do it properly.
Female Interpreter #6: The oblique line is a line very recognizable
in all Dior sketches that we have,
because as the name suggests, there's always
a part of the clothing that we see obliquely.
He never rests on his laurels.
Every season he says to himself,
"How can I totally challenge myself?"
"How can I reinvent this line?"
So there we see the oval, the oval line.
We can see it again here.
Narrator: What's with the different formats
and even the different paper here? The little cutout.
Female Interpreter #13: Yes. Here we see that, in fact, he works everywhere.
He makes a little drawing in his diary.
Here he found a little piece of paper.
We can see it has holes
from a notebook he used to scribble everywhere.
Female Interpreter #6: That's what he called his hieroglyphics.
So these examples of sketches clearly show the variety
of places where he sketched.
We learned this because this one was possibly part of a notebook
which contained the scores of a card game.
-[ Gasps ]
Narrator: So it was Christian Dior who calls them the hieroglyphics
because they would be indecipherable drafts.
But what is striking is the clarity of the idea.
They're not messy, but rather very clear and legible drafts.
The proof is that many will be used directly in the workshops.
-Ooh, la-la. -It's wonderful.
It's wonderful to see that. -I love it.
Narrator: Odile Kern was one of Mr. Dior's models.
It's the first time she's been back
to the House of Dior since 1962.
[ Speaks French ]
Female Interpreter #8: You know, I'm very moved to look at that. Really.
Oh, my God.
[ Conversing in French ]
Male Interpreter: In my opinion, these were done in the garden somewhere
in the shade, under a parasol.
Oui, oui, oui.
Narrator: The hieroglyphs are sketches of ideas made in notebooks,
often outside Paris at Melilla for the small farmhouse
that he bought close to Jean Cocteau's,
where he spent weekends with his friends.
Female Interpreter #4: You know, I think that when you're an artist,
you have ideas and you need to jot them down
straight away in a notebook
because otherwise you'll forget them.
His brain was bubbling with ideas
which he needed to record all the time.
It's really impressive.
Narrator: One of Yorn Michaelsen's tasks at the studio
was to rip up the obsolete drawings
and he tore up his boss's drawings.
Male Interpreter: For example, this coat here was being presented
and Mr. Dior was saying that he didn't like the sketch,
so he wanted the bow to be like that,
and the coat to be like that.
At that moment, the new sketch went with the fabric
and the old sketch, the original,
was ripped up.
[ Speaks French ]
And every evening I was there ripping up hundreds of sketches
which went in the trash.
Female Interpreter #9: Look at the line.
Basically how many lines are needed.
One, two, three, four, five?
In five lines there's a complete notion of a dress.
It's a bit like Picasso's lines.
In one line, he manages to convey his design.
[ Speaks French ]
Female Interpreter #11: Here, we're completely in the conceptual I mean,
it doesn't look like anything that's preceded it.
[ Pencil scratches paper ]
Even if he seemed like a bourgeois,
his imagination, was dancing in his head.
Bowles: It's also so fun when you see this and it's like a little
it's the gesture of a sec -- a few seconds.
And then to actually make it is hundreds of hours of work.
Female Interpreter: I started to work at Dior in 1951.
I arrived Monday, September 17th, 1951.
I was entering a religious order and I didn't want to leave.
We were so happy, if we hadn't been paid,
we wouldn't have cared, we were passionate.
Female Interpreter #7: Yes, he used to come see us occasionally at 11:00 p.m.
he was also there, even though it was that late.
Yes, with his long white coat,
he was always wearing it in those moments.
-He was angry with me once. -Oh, dear. Why?
Because I had a baby. And he said to me, Miss,
"If you're not here in three weeks,
I don't want to see you again." It's understandable.
He had his collection in his head,
and if you weren't there, it ruined everything.
Narrator: The profile line.
Female Interpreter #6: That I rather like.
[ Speaks French ]
Female Interpreter #13: So this is the line that really characterized Autumn Winter,
1952, Christian Dior really wanted it to be a line
which resembled the streamlined body of cars and planes.
[ Plane propeller whirs ]
Female Interpreter #2: You can feel the space projected towards the front,
very square, very structured like the structure of a car.
That shows an incredible virtuosity
on the construction level.
And how can I put it?
Male Interpreter #2: Marie Antoinette meets Bauhaus?
Yes, that's it.
Marie Antoinette at right angles. That's exactly it.
-Is it a puzzle? -No, not at all.
-Why? -No, it's not a puzzle.
It's the opposite. It's geometry.
No, it's easy to make. Well, easy.
Good thing that it's easy to make.
Female Interpreter: Have a look at this.
Narrator: Are those your drawings?
Female Interpreter: These are drawings that I made.
Here is the structure of the dresses.
If you look underneath this,
you can see the job of the petticoats,
which was to keep the volume.
That's to say it wasn't hoops like they do at [Indistinct].
It was the stacking of the petticoats.
Narrator: A lot of cubic yards. Is it comfortable?
Female Interpreter: Well, when you sat down, it would rise in front of you.
-Summer, 1953, The Tulipe Line. -Oh, yes, I love that.
I've made that numerous times for myself.
Because you see the material is folded, there are no seams,
and that makes it... like a flower.
Female Interpreter #4: That speaks for itself, it's the Tulipe line.
We can see the shape of the tulip.
Female Interpreter #13: It's pretty obvious because they're --
it's big, very developed at the top of the bust
and in particular the shoulders.
And then at the bottom, more slender fluid.
Female Interpreter: The theme meant that the clients had to keep buying the dresses
because if they had the Tulipe line,
let's say this was the Tulipe line
that was out of fashion the following year.
So they were obliged to keep changing.
Narrator: It's an explosion of ideas around his very precise codes
of a very deferential femininity.
Dior is having fun with a body reorganizing
what can be shown of the anatomy,
playing with the material,
reinventing the wheel every season.
Each line is a diktat which cancels out the previous one.
He is the pope of fashion and all his competition
wait for his show to fall into line
with the length of Dior skirts and their effects.
Female Interpreter #13: The date, December 31, 1952.
Narrator: So at Dior they worked New Year's Eve.
Female Interpreter #13: He was working when he had an idea
germinating he wouldn't stop
because it was New Year's Eve.
The Lily of the Valley line
takes the bell shape of the lily of the valley.
That little shape represents it.
necessary Is it a flower which is in fashion
or out of fashion or a superstition?
Female Interpreter #13: I think it's a superstition. And then...
Narrator: Is it supposed to bring good luck?
Female Interpreter #13: It brings good luck.
Female Interpreter #6: The H line has been rather criticized
by quite a few people.
He abandons the corset. Basically, that's it.
It's funny because the three collections that follow
are the H, A, and Y lines.
-You're dressed a bit H. -I'm a bit H?
Narrator: Well, you have two lines there and a horizontal one always.
Female Interpreter #6: Yes. Yes, I'm an H. And so I'm part of the collection.
I'm an archive. [ Laughs ]
Female Interpreter #13: We follow the contour of the waist a bit
without emphasizing it. We do that lower, in fact,
at the start of the Corolle skirt.
Narrator: The A line is inspired by the silhouette of Odile,
his beloved model.
Female Interpreter #8: I think that it's my fault I didn't have big shoulders,
so he thought, "Oh, here's what we'll do."
-Was he self-confident? -Mr. Dior? Absolutely.
Absolutely. An exceptional man whom I loved a lot.
Everybody loved him.
Female Interpreter #13: Y. It's written on it.
[ Laughter ]
In fact, it's funny because he plays with the lines of the body
and he comes up with the letters of the alphabet,
the H, the A, the Y, and it works really well.
Female Interpreter #5: The arrow line is very slender towards the top,
it's very slim, another movement which has a lot of allure.
Narrator: Is that his drawing? It's not a Saint-Laurent?
Female Interpreter #13: It could be a Saint-Laurent, yes.
I was just looking in relation to the face.
Actually it seems that the drawing is more curved.
I don't know. It feels a bit different.
Narrator: From 1955 Christian Dior welcomes a young stylist,
Yves Saint-Laurent his drawings are extraordinary.
And right away, Dior, who knows He is exhausted,
sees him as a successor.
Male Interpreter: I'm sorry. All these are not Dior sketches.
-Look at that. 1957 look. -That's a Saint-Laurent. See?
Narrator: How do you know it's a Saint-Laurent drawing?
-Because you can see it. -How?
Male Interpreter: Each of us designers has a different style,
a different origin,
a different family... different...
Yes, you can see that straight away.
Female Interpreter #13: For me, that's really Dior's touches,
recognizable with the pretty little face,
the mouth forward, the eye barely drawn.
There's always the same style of face, a bit small,
the little nose with a big mouth
and always with the little earring.
Male Interpreter: Oh, that is Saint-Laurent. That's Mr. Dior.
That's Mr. Dior.
That's Saint-Laurent. All that is Saint-Laurent.
Narrator: Does he hand over the reins because he's tired?
Female Interpreter #13: I think so. He must have been running out of steam
after everything that he'd built over 10 years.
He got off to a flying start with lots of things going on
at the same time,
opening in New York, making trips.
Female Interpreter #11: That's the problem.
If you have an extraordinary success, like with the New Look,
people expect that each season Christian Dior.
I'm sure the fact that Christian Dior
had a heart attack was linked with that.
He was really stressed with the idea of selling each season.
[ Speaks French ]
Narrator: This seems to me to be another Dior drawing,
the Magnet line of Winter 1956.
Female Interpreter: But that was hard to sell because it was too imposing.
[ Continues speaking French ]
A sketch like that is fun,
but it's not very commercial.
Female Interpreter #2: It's simple, without any particular ornamentation.
Narrator: We're looking at one of the drawings
from the last collection of Christian Dior.
He's exhausted, but he's still searching,
trying to push the boundaries of his fashion.
If we compare it to the Aphrodite
of his first collection,
there are 10 years between the two.
Female Interpreter #6: Indeed, there are 10 years.
Narrator: We can see that the fashion has changed here.
Female Interpreter #6: And then the fabric is so much more precious.
The style of the clothes, the big flower in the middle
in this very collection this design wouldn't fit in.
Even the form of the camisole,
the short little jacket,
the hat too.
-Did the world change? -The world changed.
Narrator: They have never been collected together.
All the emblematic drawings of each line of each season
and suddenly the work of Christian Dior appears.
His perpetual search, this breathtaking renewal,
10 years of fashion, so powerful and extreme
that we still reproduce it to this day.
And the House of Dior has managed to continue without him.
Female Interpreter #2: actually this process that he created,
that he imposed upon himself must have, on an artistic level,
tired him enormously
because how can you endlessly renew the lines?
Narrator: While Paris has become
a whirlwind of permanent collections,
Christian Dior renovates La Colle Noire
in the south of France --
a big house where he rests and sees his friends.
He will spend his last two summers there.
Female Interpreter #5: What's this you're showing me?
Narrator: It's the guest book from La Colle Noire.
Female Interpreter #5: Really? The visitor's book from La Colle Noire?
Narrator: And it starts in August 1956.
Jacques Benita, "With my tender affection fiction."
At the time, he was 27 or 28 years old,
the last friend of Christian Dior.
A young singer of Moroccan background of Moroccan.
Male Interpreter #2: Friend. Does that mean boyfriend?
Narrator: Boyfriend? Exactly.
So he spent at least two summers there at La Colle Noire.
Male Interpreter #2: Here Marc Chygall has taken the entire page.
It's a stylized profile of an idealized painter in profile.
He's in front of his easel, we see the top of the easel,
and the dedication is superb -- "For Dior, a great artist."
Narrator: So he hangs out with the beautiful and the rich.
Female Interpreter #5: Oh, yes, there, that's that's heavy stuff, I can say that.
Male Interpreter #2: Bernard Buffet, who makes neighborly visits.
Female Interpreter #5: No! June 13, 1957.
Male Interpreter #2: Look at that, there's humor.
We almost poke fun of the owner of the place,
we can see Mr. Dior looking paunchy.
It's Maurice Van Moppes, also a long-standing friend.
He was a famous voice of the French Resistance.
They're not really making fun of him.
It's gentle, good humored.
I think these people needed to have fun.
Female Interpreter #5: All these are from his last months.
There's an incredible sadness
because it's the month of August.
Male Interpreter #2: So, it's August 1957,
which will be Christian Dior's last summer in La Colle Noir,
getting back on his feet and recharging his batteries
before leaving for the front and to work and produce and draw
and prepare a new collection.
The never-ending race.
Narrator: The last known letter from Christian Dior
he wrote it to his companion, Jacques Benita.
"My dear Jacques, a couple of words to tell you
that I was happy to receive your telegram.
Here, after two storms, the weather's beautiful again,
but my nerves are in a really bad state.
I only have black thoughts
and enjoy nothing of the beauty that is surrounding me.
I was sad to see you go, but it's better than
if you were here at the moment when I can't bear anything
or anybody starting with myself,tian.
In Mr. Dior's book, "Dior and I" which he wrote in 1956,
there are a lot of words which evoke exhaustion, fatigue.
I get the impression
that the House of Dior exhausted him all the time, in fact.
Female Interpreter: You're right, it was madness.
But he was well supported,
because the workforce was young, so it had drive.
All the senior staff were 50-55 years old.
So they were...
and then especially you needed to be available
at the drop of a hat for the boss.
Because Mr. Dior only came in the evening.
He would arrive around five or six p.m.
and then we would all have to stay until 2:00 a.m.
because all of a sudden he was inspired.
He'd be nit picking a design.
"We'll do it in blue. Oh, no, in yellow. Oh, no, in silk.
Oh, no, in lace." You get the idea.
Female Interpreter #5: He had terrible moods, terrible fits of rage.
We had to protect him to surround him.
It was really hard at the end of his life.
Reporter: Christian Dior has died,
struck down by a heart attack in Italy.
Brought home where he received a silent tribute.
Narrator: Overworked, exhausted, overwhelmed,
Dior dies during a stay at a health spa
in Montecatini in Italy.
Here is the last page of Mr. Dior's diary,
October 12, 1957, at 5:00 p.m. --
A game of canasta with friends, at 1:00 p.m.,
lunch with Jacques, his companion,
and at three p.m., a meeting with Madame Delahaye,
And on the page of Sunday, October 13th, leave for Italy.
He leaves for his cure and he will never come back.
[ Speaks French ]
Male Interpreter: I remember that the fortune teller,
the woman who predicted his future,
came to the studio and on leaving his office, he said,
"My children, madam so-and-so had predicted
that I shouldn't leave for Montecatini
because something bad will happen."
I was there.
But the suitcases were packed, everything was ready,
so he left.
Female Interpreter #4: If he had really followed his beliefs until the end,
he never would have gone there.
So that's a mystery and a big contrast in his character.
We find his little superstitions as points which mark his career.
And the moment where he really should have followed
superstition and listen to it, he didn't do it.
And he dies.
Narrator: Where were you when you learned of his death?
Male Interpreter: I was, oh, I remember very well.
I was leaving home in the morning
and the concierge said to me,
"You know, your boss died this morning."
Female Interpreter: It must have been a Monday because it was cold.
And Mondays in the workshops,
they hadn't been heated for two days and it was freezing cold.
Someone told me, "Mr. Dior is dead."
Male Interpreter: so naturally, I rushed to 30 Avenue Montaigne,
where I found my family in tears.
It was dramatic.
-You said "my family." -Sorry?
-You said my family. -Well, yes.
For me, it was like a family.
Female Interpreter: When he died, we took the black silk organza
and we all got together,
we sold by hand fresh sprigs of lily of the valley.
I don't know where they came from.
By plane I don't know.
And we sewed lily of the valley on the entire shroud.
Male Interpreter: The coffin was there in the church,
covered in lily of the valley, in October.
It was an extraordinary homage to Mr. Dior.
Female Interpreter: I have never seen so many flowers in my life
because as we worked for embassies and whatnot
all over the world, wreaths were arriving
so many of them,
we didn't know where to put them.
They asked the city of Paris for authorization
to put all the flowers around the l'Etoile.
We covered it. You won't believe me.
The floor of the Arc de Triomphe,
with all the wreaths that had been sent.
If you can imagine, there were thousands of wreaths.
Female Interpreter #3: I've never seen these either, Gabrielle Chanel.
Female Interpreter #4: Oh, these are -- No. Are they business cards?
Female Interpreter #8: So why do we have all these couture houses here today?
Female Interpreter #5: Oh, gosh, that is impressive. Guy Laroche.
Female Interpreter #2: It's impressive.
Narrator: What are they for?
Female Interpreter #2: Well, they're cards from the time of his death,
it's very -- I've never seen that.
It's very moving.
I didn't know they existed.
Narrator: There are piles and piles of them.
Female Interpreter #2: It's very touching.
We can see that everybody is there.
Everyone I mean, from the world of fashion, the whole of Paris,
the friends, Schiaparelli. It's incredible.
Narrator: These are the business cards that were left
at the time of Mr. Dior's death.
[ Gasps ]
Female Interpreter #8: Boussac, of course, we were owned by Boussac.
Female Interpreter #3: And even Cristóbal Balenciaga,
he was definitely everybody's master.
Female Interpreter #8: Oh, it's very touching today. I'm really, really moved to.
[ Continues speaking French ]
With everything -- being in this building,
this house, and to see all these photos,
all the ghosts and everything here.
Male Interpreter: "In this great sadness,
our only consolation is to think
that he fulfilled his mission on Earth."
But it's such a shame that he couldn't enjoy his success
and even his friends completely, I believe.
Because he was so taken with his profession
that he hardly had any time left for his friends,
apart from on holiday.
Christian Dior, made an impression on me
an impression for life.
And even his style marked me for life.
I often think of him.
Goodbye, Mr. Dior. Thank you.
Narrator: Christian Dior died on October 24, 1957,
the exhibitions of his dresses still break attendance records.
Miss Dior, the perfume that was launched the first year of Dior,
continues to be a worldwide success.
The Dior name continues to shine.
It has become one of the jewels in the crown
of luxury group LVMH. And generations of designers
continue to interpret its stylistic legacy.
Previously unseen drawings of Christian Dior crop up
regularly in auction sales,
but also letters which continue to tell of a refined man --
melancholic, but obsessed with his work.
A man who searched with his fashion
to create a luxurious and flowery world.
An ideal world.