Christian Dior: Little Dictionary of Fashion

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Post by Anne-Marie

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In my tiny collection of fashion and perfume books, my greatest treasure is a tattered copy of Christian Dior’s Little Dictionary of Fashion: a guide to dress sense for every woman, published by Cassell & Co in 1954. A friend gave it to me and it seems to be a first edition, which is rather special. It’s written in English. If there was an earlier French edition I’m not aware of it.

The book is arranged alphabetically: A for Accessories … Afternoon Frock … Armholes … – through to Z for … Zest (‘There is no beauty which is attractive without Zest’).

Christian Dior: Little Dictionary of Fashion

Book Review

the-little-dictionary-of-fashion-a-guide-to-dress-sense-for-every-woman-book-depositoryBook Depository

Of course on first opening the book I skipped straight to P for Perfume. Here’s the entry in full.
“Since the beginning of civilisation perfume has always been used and has been considered an essential part of woman’s attraction.
“When I was young, women used much more perfume than they do now and I think that was wonderful and I regret that more women don’t use it lavishly now.
“Perfume, like your clothes, can so much express your personality; and you can change your perfume with your mood.
“I think it as important for a woman to have beautiful perfume as it is for her to have beautiful clothes. And do not think that you need have perfume only on yourself; your whole house can smell of it, and especially your own room.”

The entry is accompanied by a photograph of – of course! – Miss Dior in the amphora bottle in which it had been presented on its release in 1947.

miss-dior-amphora-fragranticaFragrantica

It’s intriguing that Dior thought that women of that time wore less perfume than when he was young (Dior was born in 1905). Was that true, I wonder? Perhaps the women in Dior’s (rather privileged) early life happened to be great lovers of perfume? Or perhaps Dior the salesman was he just being sly, encouraging women to buy more perfume? Preferably his own, of course

The book is sheer delight. Dated, of course, in some of its advice. “In town you cannot be dressed without gloves any more than you can be dressed without a hat.” But whimsical too. “I never get tired of dots.” And sensible. “Too high heels are vulgar and hideous.” I could not agree more.

My favourite is the entry for Elegance: “Elegance must be the right combination of distinction, naturalness, care and simplicity. Outside this, believe me, there is no elegance. Only pretension.” I do believe you M. Dior, indeed I do.

This charming book has been republished under a slightly rearranged title, and is widely available online.
By the way, want some Miss Dior bottle porn? Go here.

Are you a lover of Dior style, in dress and perfume? Do comment!
Until next time everyone, stay elegant!
Anne-Marie

9 comments on “Christian Dior: Little Dictionary of Fashion

  1. australianperfumejunkies says:

    Hey Anne-Marie,
    They still produce that beautiful bottle and you can buy your Dior fragrance in them at Harrods. Jin nearly bought me one earlier this year but I stopped him. Maybe next year?
    Portia xx

  2. xxdfarre says:

    Could you please forward that para on elegance to Kim thingummybob

  3. Janine Dello says:

    Sounds like I so need that book! Yes, perfume (one of my passions/obsessions) is just as important as fashion in transforming our identity! I have just finished a painting series on this topic – ‘The tension between female desire and the fashion consumer culture’ for Art School graduation. If you get a chance, take a look at an article about my theme, and let me know what you think! Love your posts, cheers, Janine http://www.cliquemag.com.au/article/behind-canvas-janine-dello/

    • annemariec says:

      Dior seems a perfect exemplar of your theme, albeit from an earlier era. His style must have been the most desired in the world in those early years after the war, but few women could afford it and even fewer could wear it.

      And as a dictionary of fashion suggests – there were a lot of ‘rules’ to follow in those days. Fashion dos and don’ts. Women of my mother’s generation knew these rules – don’t wear stripes with spots, or blue with green, or grey with brown. Red heads can’t wear pink. And so on.

      While there are fewer rules now, we are hemmed in by brands. Our ‘choices’ are dominated by brands, and few of us can resist. The brands want us to identify with them but is that going to bring happiness and fulfilment? That’s the message I get from your painting of the girl with the Chanel tattoo.

      And yet fashion and makeup and beauty can also enrich our lives!

      I like your paintings very much – thanks for the link!

      • Janine Dello says:

        Thanks Anne-Marie, Yes I totally agree with you and it is wonderful when I hear that a female understands what I am trying to say in my artwork. We covet designer brands, but the desire cycle is unfulfilling.

  4. Neva says:

    I’m not following haute couture, but in the eighties I used to buy Vogue every now and then and I always admired Dior’s and YSL’s creations…so feminine, so elegant, so ladylike. I suppose it’s not for everyday wear and for today’s quick lifestyle but I like his fashion more than the perfumes.

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