Miss Dior: A Story of Courage and Couture, Petit Plaisir #378
Wednesday April 3, 2024

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It has taken me far too long to know who Catherine Dior was. So while the new Apple TV+ series, The New Look centered around her brother, the French fashion designer that brought fashion back to France and arguably the world, specifically couture fashion, following World War II, Christian Dior, it was the inclusion of his youngest sister Catherine’s story, and her survival of her time at the concentration camp Ravensbrook during WWII for being part of the French resistance movement that caught my attention.

Much of the aforementioned television series is drawn from Justine Picardie’s biography of Catherine Dior, Miss Dior: A Story of Courage and Couture, published in 2021, as well as Picardie’s biography of Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life, originally published in 2010 and updated in 2023, which prompted me to read both books.

The life of Catherine Dior, along with living simply and dedicating her life to France’s freedom, nearly giving her life for France’s freedom, is one of adoration of natural beauty and being in the garden, inspired by her own mother’s prowess with roses. Catherine then carries on this love when the family moves to Provence from Normandy where her father ran a lucrative fertilizer company due to their father’s financial loss in October 1929 that upended so many lives. Living with her father prior to and then following WWII, her miraculous return from the concentration camp, she immerses herself in growing and selling her flowers, especially the Granville Rose with her long-time partner, Hervé des Charbonneries, until her death in 2008. As well, following her beloved brother Christian’s sudden death in 1957, she became the ‘moral heir’ of his fashion empire, safeguarding its legacy and preserving his legacy; she also served as the honorary president of the Musée Christian Dior until her own passing, aged 90

But where does the title of the book Miss Dior come from?

When Christian launched his first collection, to be named The New Look in 1947, he also launched the first perfume of Dior and named it Miss Dior, inspired by his sister Catherine, a scent that reminded him of her and the Granville roses. While she didn’t know his intentions while he was creating it, and nearly almost didn’t travel up from Provence to view the reveal of his collection on February 12, 1947, when she did, it was then that she learned of the perfume’s provenance.

What I also appreciated about the biography, along with chronologically following Catherine’s life, is the inclusion of passages from Christian’s autobiography about his sister and their journey together as both children, the war and adults following the war. Having just published his book one year before his death, it provides valuable insight into the dear affection he had for his sister as well as so much more about the unique journey his life followed.

If the series The New Look captured your curiosity as well, whether about Catherine, Christian or Coco, this biography, Miss Dior: The Story of Courage and Couture will give you a deep insight into what really happened and most intimately, into the inspiring and courageous person and life of Catherine Dior.

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Episode 331

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