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1954 Christian Dior Haute Couture 'Lily of the Valley' Satin Evening Dress Suit



Two piece suit consisting of a jacket and mid length skirt of butter black satin trimmed with a velvet and jet fringe. The fitted jacket is constructed on princess lines with raglan sleeves, a cutaway closure and small peplum. The full ballerina length skirt consists of unpressed box pleats and trim at thigh level. The style of this suit epitomizes the hourglass silhouette of the New Look for which Dior was famous: the rounded shoulders, small waist and full skirt. However, it also documents the subtle influence of Balenciaga in that his classic form is achieved without boning and padding by using princess construction and trim to emphasize the width of the peplum and skirt. The soft rolling collar echoes the volumetric quality of the suit. This line was called “Lily of the Valley” and placed a new emphasis on organic construction (the princess lines). The width of the bust evolves out of the stem of the waist which is anchored in the ground (hips and peplum). In comparison with other examples from this line, this piece was a pre-cursor of the H line which was shown in the fall / winter of 1954. In the H line, the whole torso was outlined (the fitted jacket without a line cutting the waist) and was then mounted onto the flared full skirt. This was perceived at that time as youthful. Because it was so expensive to mount a new line and the clients paid so much per piece for their acquisitions, changes were usually slow and incremental although the fashion press needed to accentuate any innovation, often out of all proportion to reality, to justify their existence. Although the New Look was already 7 years old, its silhouette was still dominant. Dior was the most important house in Paris (in economic terms) at this time with everyone watching his line for leadership. However, experts could detect differences which were carefully monitored. Measurements: Jkt bust: to 38"; waist: 32"; length: 23"; sleeve: 19"-20" Skirt waist: 26"; length: 30" Condition: excellent; The closure of the jacket was originally held in place by hooks and thread eyes. These broke and the original wearer added heavy metal snaps. These have been professionally removed and the original thread eyes have been reconstructed. However, marks have been left by the snaps though they are not visible when the jacket is closed and worn or installed. Crinolines used to show skirt volume are not included in sale.


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About the Designer

Christian Dior

When Christian Dior launched his couture house, in 1946, he wanted nothing less than to make “an elegant woman more beautiful and a beautiful woman more elegant.” He succeeded, and in doing so the visionary designer altered the landscape of 20th century fashion.

Dior was born in Granville, on the Normandy coast, in 1905. His prosperous haute bourgeois parents wanted him to become a diplomat despite his interest in art and architecture. However, they agreed to bankroll an art gallery, which Dior opened in 1928 in Paris with a friend.

This was the start of Dior’s rise in the city’s creative milieu, where he befriended Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau. After seven years as an art dealer, Dior retrained as a fashion illustrator, eventually landing a job as a fashion designer for Robert Piguet, and in 1941, following a year of military service, he joined the house of Lucien Lelong. Just five years later, with the backing of industrialist Marcel Boussac, the ascendant Dior established his own fashion house, at 30 avenue Montaigne in Paris.

Just two years after the end of World War II, the fashion crowd and the moribund haute couture industry were yearning, comme tout Paris, for security and prosperity, desperate to discard the drab, sexless, utilitarian garb imposed by wartime deprivation. They needed to dream anew.

And Dior delivered: He designed a collection for a bright, optimistic future. “It’s quite a revolution, dear Christian!” exclaimed Carmel Snow, the prescient American editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar, famously proclaiming, “Your dresses have such a new look.” The press ran with the description, christening Dior’s debut Spring/Summer haute couture collection the New Look. “God help those who bought before they saw Dior,” said Snow. “This changes everything.”

Dior’s collection definitively declared that opulence, luxury and femininity were in. His skirts could have 40-meter-circumference hems, and outfits could weigh up to 60 pounds. They were cut and shaped like architecture, on strong foundations that molded women and “freed them from nature,” Dior said. Rather than rationing, his ladies wanted reams of fabric and 19-inch waists enforced by wire corsets, and the fashion world concurred. The debut got a standing ovation.

In the subsequent decade, Paris ruled as the undisputed fashion capital of the world, and Christian Dior reigned as its king. With the luxuriously full skirts of his New Look, suits and his drop-dead gorgeous evening dresses and ball gowns worthy of any princess, Dior gave women the gift of glamour they’d lost in the miserable years of war.

On 1stDibs, find an exquisite range of vintage Christian Dior clothing, jewelry, handbags and other items.

About the Seller
Located in Los Angeles, CA
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Established in 1995
1stDibs seller since 2011
125 sales on 1stDibs
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