Wednesday, October 21, 2015

My Dior

For the last couple of months, I've immersed myself in the enchanting world of Dior. I've read the autobiography Christian Dior and I; I've reverently turned the pages of the mighty tome Dior published by Assouline and I've watched Christian Dior: the Man Behind the Myth and Dior and I.

Little did I imagine that one day I could legitimately use the phrase "my Dior." I've never had a glimmer of a thought that I would ever own a dress by Dior. But now I do.

My lifelong friend, Holly, inherited a collection of couture clothes from her mother-in-law, Marjorie Stern. Most of the collection was donated to the San Francisco de Young Museum, but recently Holly and I were chatting and she mentioned there was one dress the museum didn't take and that I was the only person she thought it might fit. We set a date to meet at her textile studio in Sausalito for me to take a look at the dress and try it on. I had a restless night before our meeting. I envisioned one of the earlier Dior's from the 50's, when women wore heavy foundations to achieve the wasp waist and I worried that my waist would not wasp. But I reasoned with myself, even if it didn't fit, at least I would have the thrill of being up close and personal with a Dior dress. 

But as soon as Holly lifted the protective covering, I was thrilled to see that the dress might actually fit.   I stepped in to the dress and happily the zipper zipped without me having to suck it in too much!

Since it's from 1964, the dress was designed by Marc Bohan. Christian Dior died in 1957 and Yves Saint Laurent was appointed artistic director, but only for two years. He was drafted and due to a mental collapse was placed in a military hospital. In 1960, while Saint Laurent was in the hospital, Bohan was appointed artistic director. Bohan remained the artistic director for the next thirty years, until 1989.

I'm fascinated by the stamped model number on the label, 124646. I contacted the Textile Arts Council at the de Young museum to see if they had more information. I wondered if each dress has a unique number and if it's possible to track the background of a dress. They responded quickly, suggesting that I contact the company directly. Last Friday, I popped into the Christian Dior Boutique and explained my story to the very attentive and understanding manager. He is a wealth of Dior knowledge and offered a couple theories; before ready-to-wear was so available, high-end department stores would buy the patterns from couture designers and have the dresses made for their clients, so it could be the stores model number, or, it could be a customer number specific to Mrs. Stern and her measurements. The manager offered to send the photos of the label and dress to another Dior contact to get their ideas. I'll let you know what I find out.

Marc Bohan with his models, 1966, copyright RDA/Rue des Archives. 
From Dior by Farid Chenoune and Laziz Hamani

The dress is quite wearable, the wool is soft and airy and completely lined in silk. There's an additional silk lining, so the dress easily slips on and hangs effortlessly with a beautiful drape. And I adore that it has pockets - large and deep silk lined pockets that are completely invisible on the exterior.

Adding to the significance of my Dior dress, I admire the woman who wore it. Marjorie Stern is known for her philanthropic work in San Francisco, especially as one of the founders of the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, an organization I've supported as a donor and volunteer for years. Now that's what I call dressing with personal style and meaning.