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June 18, 2014

A Rare Look Into the World of Christian Dior From the 1950s

Mark Shaw is often remembered for his intimate portraits of Jackie and John F. Kennedy and for his work chronicling the world for LIFE magazine through the 1950s and 1960s.

But in a book out from Rizzoli, another of Shaw’s roles is examined: that of translator of French fashion. The lensman acted as a sort of go-between for LIFE and the Paris couture houses—none of which was more important at the time than Christian Dior.

Here, see some of his most gorgeous work from Dior Glamour, in which he captures the chic, unforgettable Dior look.

Sophie Malgat—the wife of film directior Anatole “Tola” Litvak—was one of the rare models who starred on the catwalk and had “cover girl” status in magazine editorials. Shaw photographed her in the Jardin d’Hiver of Christian Dior’s hôtel particulier on Boulevard Jules Sandeau in Paris’s Sixteenth Arrondissement. (Evening dress, Autumn-Winter 1953 haute-couture collection.)

Christian Dior wrote of house model Renée, photographed here in an Autumn-Winter 1954 haute-couture gown, that “[e]very dress she puts on seems to be a success.”

The iconic Kouka modeling a wedding dress in Dior’s Grand Salon. In her opinion, “the fashion house was temple-like,” a world of good taste and general excellence. (Hyménée dress, Spring-Summer 1961 haute-couture collection.)

This photograph was taken in the home of Suzanne Luling, Christian Dior’s couture director. Since she was wildly social and extremely popular, her Quai Malaquais apartment was famous for its happening cocktail parties and Sunday-night canasta games that Monsieur Dior attended. (Romance dress, Spring-Summer 1960 haute-couture collection.)

Only a few hours after Shaw snapped this image of Elizabeth Taylor, she won an Academy Award for BUtterfield 8. (Soirée à Rio dress, Spring-Summer 1961 haute-couture collection.)

Buyers had to pay a fee to attend Christian Dior’s in-demand shows as well as buy a specified number of outfits. Due to the pricey conditions—Dior was the most expensive couturier in Paris—every piece of clothing was studied to the maximum degree before being ordered. (Autumn-Winter 1953 haute-couture collection.)

Thirteen was Christian Dior’s favorite number and he was highly superstitious, which explains why there were 13 models in his cabine. Here is one group, lined up on the staircase outside the Grand Salon before a highly anticipated trip to Japan. (Autumn-Winter 1953 haute-couture collection.)

When models hit the streets, they were always covered up. This was to prevent new outfits from being copied; it was the designer’s obsessive and lingering fear after each collection. During that period, copyrighting and selling paper patterns became an important percentage of Dior’s couture business. (Autumn-Winter 1953 haute-couture collection.)

Shaw took this series in Paris to bring the sense of the city back to America. (Palais de Glace dress, Spring-Summer 1957 haute-couture collection.)

Dior creative director Marc Bohan with models from his first collection (Spring-Summer 1961), which was a great success. The prettiness and freshness of his Dior clothes gave an alternative to clients who wanted to be fashionable and look feminine yet feel safe. Bohan’s designs not only implied and flattered the body but never dared to expose or reveal. (Jardin d’Italie, Jardin de Paris, Jardin d’Espagne, and Jardin Anglais dresses, Spring-Summer 1961 haute-couture collection.)

Models in outerwear in 1961. (Jungle, Canada, and Amsterdam models, Autumn-Winter 1961 haute-couture collection.)

Chrita Päffgen was a young model in the mid-1950s, working for French magazines such as Elle, Vogue, and Jardin des Modes. A few years later, the blonde German beauty would change her name to Nico, become a muse to Andy Warhol, and star in his experimental film, Chelsea Girls. Nico reached icon status when she sang alongside Lou Reed in the Velvet Underground.

The Isengrin ensemble, from the Autumn-Winter 1958 haute-couture collection.

The Lola dress, from the Autumn-Winter 1958 haute-couture collection.

Ondine and Ciel de Feu dresses (third and fourth models from the left), from the Autumn-Winter 1961 haute-couture collection.

(via Vanity Fair)



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