In this family portrait, Christian Dior is standing behind his mother. He appears to be about 15 years old and since Dior was born in 1905, the photo is likely circa 1920. The garden setting suggests their home at Granville on the Normandy coast and the semi-formal dress of the party suggests a happy occasion such as a birthday.
I was impressed by his mother’s costume and what I perceive to be its similarity to Dior’s famous Bar suit and its accessories from Maison Christian Dior’s first collection in 1947. Mrs. Dior is wearing a wide-brimmed hat trimmed with flowers and ribbon, the outer edge turning downward, a wise choice for sun protection for a woman who enjoyed working in her garden. Her skirt is pleated and full, the bodice fits snugly at the waist. Her arms are bare for the photo, a crystal necklace fills the low V of the neckline.
In Dior’s Bar suit, the colors of the mother’s ensemble are reversed. While the mother’s bodice is black and the skirt is white, the Bar suit jacket is as white as his mother’s arms and exposed neckline and the suit skirt is black. Over the years the Bar suit was a favorite of fashion photographers. In one often-seen photo the model wears a natural color straw mushroom hat to complement the outfit. In another photo the tailored suit is worn with a black hat also decorated in black, with a slightly lower crown than that worn by Dior’s mother. At the 1947 presentation of the collection, the model wears a necklace of three strands of white pearls, mirroring the three strand necklace worn by Dior’s mother, and the tailleur is accented by a wide-brimmed black hat and black heels.
The fashion illustration of the Bar suit by Christian Bérard in 1947 is likely the one closest to Dior’s conception of his creation. It shows the pleated skirt less full, the bottom edge of the jacket then flares slightly outward rather than resting on the skirt. The crown of the black hat is not high, the brim is wide, yet the face is visible. The black hat is lightly veiled with white lace or net, calling to mind the lacy over-skirt worn by Dior’s mother in the family portrait. The model in the Bérard drawing is posed in the center of the paper. The gently rolled shawl collar softens the line of the tailored jacket and pleated skirt. Wearing espadrille-like heels, a dark color of gloves, and a picture hat that flares as widely as the lower edge of the skirt, the model seems dressed for a garden party on a lovely summer afternoon. In the lower right corner the artist has drawn his interpretation of Dior’s beloved childhood home at Granville, the three-story house at Les Rhumbs. This addition to the drawing perhaps represents the artist’s or his patron’s signature, similar to a designer’s seal on a Japanese woodblock print of the Ukiyo-e.
Christian Dior recalls the creation of his 1947 Corelle collection in his autobiography Christian Dior and I, published in 1956, one year before his death. The Internet Archive has a copy, the link is below.
An inside look at the “Bar” suit at V&A Museum which shows some of the “long forgotten techniques” employed by the staff of Maison Christian Dior in order to create the Bar suit, an enduring example of Dior’s work.
Christian Dior and I
History of the garden at Les Rhumbs
Christian Bérard’s illustration of the Bar suit with Les Rhumbs background
“Bar” Spring/Summer 1947
Dior family, circa 1920