THE raison d'etre of a grand couturier is, I take it, to clothe his clients suitably and to enhance their beauty in doing so. After reading this remarkable book, however, I find it is even more complicated than this, for attention must be paid to the psychological development of each important client. M. Dior takes us into his confi- dence with great frankness. The book is a long one, charmingly illustrated, but it is the third part, 'Inside a Couture. House,' that is the most interesting. We are, so to speak, introduced to the leading mannequins by name, to the clients, not by name, though the identity of some is easy to guess, and to the character of the great Dior himself.
Dior says that the grace and carriage of a mannequin are of course important, but it is essen- tial that she should be a complete extrovert. He certainly is one himself. Coming of Norman stock, he shows the grit and determination associated with all Normans and attributes his success to the fact, as he puts it : 'Women have instinctively understood that I dream of making them not only more beautiful, but also happier. That is why they have rewarded me with their patronage.'
The present Maison Christian Dior in the Avenue Montaigne dates from 1947 and it is thanks to the support of Marcel Boussac that our author was able to launch himself upon his suc- cessful career. The narrative of his first journey to America after introducing the New Look in Europe, which was at first unpopular in America, makes amusing reading. More exciting is the long story of how the collections are evolved, Dior's method of designing and the subtle art of the 'expression' of the design. We are given a descrip tion of the visits of the professional buyers who see the collections before the customers. The state of nerves, the hysteria and the exhilaration at these shows are well described.
Though Dior dresses are supposed to be so expensive, lady friends of mine assure me that they are to be obtained in leading London stores for as little as about £40 a dress. Be that as it may, Dior has successfully founded branches all over the world, some of which are almost as famous as the maison mere in Paris. Not content with the success of his dresses, he has a subsidiary business in a boutique, as he calls it, which deals in gloves, perfumes, stockings and men's ties.
The author takes us with him on his famous journey to Blenheim when, as the guest of the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, he exhibited his new collection recently and where he had the honour of being presented to Princess Margaret. He has also once met the Queen and says, `The mauve dress and draped hat which she wore would have been quite inconceivable on anyone else—as it was, on her they looked wonderful, and I felt that nothing else would have shown her to such advantage.' I must congratulate the trans- lator of this book,. whose task, I would imagine, presented unusual difficulties, and occasional slips