In his book The Little Dictionary of Fashion, the legendary designer Christian Dior said, “You can never take too much care in selecting your shoes.”
The iconic style maven went on to say that too many people think that because they are low down, shoes do not matter, “but it is by what is on her feet that you can judge whether a woman is elegant or not.” His essential handbook to dressing well was published in 1954, and is still relevant today.
A fashion design star is born
Born in northern France in 1905, Dior’s parents moved the family to Paris while he was still a young boy. Although he was passionate about art and architecture, he gave in to pressure from his father and decided to study political science, with a plan to one day become a diplomat.
After graduating in 1928, Dior decided not to pursue diplomacy and instead opened an art gallery that handled the works of notable artists like Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau and Max Jacob. Forced to close his art shop for family-related issues, he became an illustrator for the magazine Figaro Illustré in 1935. This career was also cut short as he served in the French army during the early years leading up to World War II.
In 1940, he began working with couturier Lucien Lelong, which eventually led to Dior deciding to launch his own fashion house by the end of 1946. Fully operational in 1947, his early innovative designs broke away from the sombre wartime garb and reintroduced luxury fabrics with a focus on glamour and femininity. The fashion world clamoured for his designs and he was almost instantly sought after by royalty and celebrities.
Within a few years, and as a leading authority on women’s style, fashion and elegance, Christian launched his first line of Dior shoes in 1953 with Roger Vivier, which prominently featured pump style shoes. In his book The Little Dictionary of Fashion, Christian said, “Pumps go with everything,” and today collectors will pay premium prices for vintage designs and current shoes that now bear his name.
Roger Vivier for Dior
The Dior legacy lives on
Tragically, in 1957 Christian Dior died of a heart attack while on vacation in Italy at only 52 years of age. Dior’s company was thrown into chaos, as a new fashion house which only ten years earlier had revolutionized women’s fashion, and almost single-handedly revived the prominence of Paris as the leading city for fashion design, and the French fashion industry in general.
Talk of shutting down the brand was rejected by global business partners and the French fashion industry in general. To carry on Christian Dior’s design sensibility his handpicked 21-year old protege Yves Saint-Laurent was made the lead designer for the House of Dior for three transition years before leaving and handing the design duties to Marc Bohan for almost 30 years.
It was Bohan’s conservative yet elegant artistic vision that firmly cemented the preeminence of the Dior brand for the 1960s and the decades to come. Italian Gianfranco Ferré and then the British John Galliano carried on the lead design duties up until recent years.
The Dior brand has been expanded over the years to include men’s and children’s wear as well as fragrances, jewellery, handbags and a successful sunglasses/eyewear line.
The shoes can make the outfit
As the leading fashion label from a golden era of Hollywood elegance, Dior was famously worn by the world’s leading ladies from Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe to Jackie Kennedy and Princess Margaret. The Dior shoes from those days (the fifties and the sixties) were also highly coveted and remained difficult to find as they were produced in limited quantities.
Nevertheless, like with women’s clothing, Dior had a significant and lasting impact on shoes as a fashion accessory and Dior’s shoes were notable for becoming ever more ornate and elegant and also for raising the heels (thanks to new strong plastics). In fact, many of Roger Vivier‘s shoe designs for Dior featured the stiletto heel, which he called “the needle.”
These days, the Dior footwear lineup has expanded greatly, including pumps, flats, boots, sandals and sneakers. Without a doubt, shoes can reflect your personality, mood, and style so, heed Christian’s advice and take “much care in selecting shoes.”
Ready for your first pair? You can scan your local high-end department stores or vintage shops or check online for a nice selection at online retailers such as 24s.com to have them delivered right to your door.