Fantasy on the Dance Floor, Barbara Mullen, dress by Christian Dior, Paris, photographed for the April 1949 issue by Lillian Bassman.
As Harper's Bazaar celebrates its 150th anniversary and Dior celebrates it's 70th, we look back at how the iconic fashion brand has influenced the magazine. The essential history of Harper's Bazaar's first 150 years, featuring more than 300 iconic photographs, plus the most influential designers and writers, goes on sale April 13.
An illustration by René Gruau of Dior's "Bar" suit from the May1947 issue; Christian Dior, circa 1955.
The New Look
Born in Granville, France, and raised between the Normandy seaside and Paris, Christian Dior had worked for Robert Piguet and Lucien Lelong before striking out on his own. On the morning of February 12, 1947, he unveiled his first collection at the house's 30 Avenue Montaigne salon, and it was everything that great fashion is supposed to be: bold, unexpected, and brazen. Dior's introduction of a silhouette defined by a very full mid-calf skirt with a nipped-in waist—powerfully christened the "New Look" by Bazaar editor Carmel Snow—was a watershed moment. It not only signaled a break from the narrow skirts and shapeless jackets of the war years but also heralded a new femininity and freedom in fashion. Dior's looks evoked a modern romance that influenced designers both in Paris and abroad. An illustration of Dior's "Bar" suit by René Gruau ran in the May 1947 issue, and a story hailing the arrival of the New Look itself, shot by Richard Avedon on the streets of Paris, appeared later that year. "Swirling skirts. Pleats and pleats. Models pirouetting in skirts 25 yards wide. Dior makes a skirt 45 yards wide," proclaimed the text that accompanied the piece in the October 1947 issue, as it remarked on Dior's profligate use of material, coming as it did on the heels of wartime fabric rations.
A story on the "New Look" in the October1947 issue, photographed by Richard Avedon.
Avedon and Carmel Snow at the Dior show in Paris, circa 1950.
Editors at Work
Christian Dior's debut collection, was a period that also happened to coincide with an incredibly creative time in Bazaar's life as Snow, Alexey Brodovitch, and Diana Vreeland reimagined the fashion magazine in a more modern vein.
Dovima with elephants, evening dress by Dior, Cirque d'Hiver, Paris, August 1955, photographed by Richard Avedon.
History In The Making
In 1955, Richard Avedon traveled to Paris to do a shoot for Bazaar at the Cirque d'Hiver that resulted in one of the most indelible fashion images of all: a portrait of the model Dovima, posed between two elephants, in a Dior dress. The picture, which is now in the permanent collection of New York's Museum of Modern Art, sits atop an ever-growing list of unforgettable Dior moments in Bazaar.
The impact Christian Dior had on fashion at mid-century was all the more remarkable given the relative brevity of his career, which was cut short when he died suddenly of a heart attack, on October 24, 1957. "He was not just another dressmaker," Bazaar editor Carmel Snow wrote of Dior in a tribute in the magazine's December 1957 issue. "He was a milestone in the history of fashion." His successor, a then unknown upstart named Yves Saint Laurent, became the first in a long line of singular talents that would include Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons, and, now, Maria Grazia Chiuri to take on the mantle of the house. Just 21 years old, the Algerian-born Saint Laurent had been Dior's assistant, or his "dauphin," as the elder designer called him. Once crowned king, the protégé started with a bang: His famed Trapèze collection, for Spring 1958—which introduced a silhouette with a narrow shoulder, high waist, and flared skirt—made him an overnight sensation.
Photo: Simon Procter.
John Galliano joined Dior as creative director in 1996, and the collections he designed for the house over the next 15 years were various shades of extraordinary—theatrical, opulent, and thoroughly modern. Shortly after Galliano's appointment, the Costume Institute at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art honored the work and the legacy of Christian Dior at its annual gala. Bazaar's editor at the time, Liz Tilberis, cochaired the event, and her guest for the evening, Princess Diana, wore a navy slipdress from Galliano's first couture collection for Dior. In March 2007, to celebrate Galliano's first decade at Dior, Bazaar assembled a story featuring a look from each of the 20 couture fantasias he'd created to that point. Yet despite the grandness of his vision, Galliano was modest and reflective about his time at Dior. "If I've achieved anything," he said, "I hope I've rescued women from wearing a naff dirndl skirt and corset at night."
Skye Parrott/Trunk Archive. Robert Longo Artwork: Courtesy the Artist and Metro Pictures, New York.
In April 2012, Raf Simons was named creative director at Dior. With just seven weeks to produce his first couture collection for the house, he unveiled a cavalcade of artful, romantic confections presented on a colorful set lined floor to ceiling with flowers. Simons's work for Dior over the next three years would be both fearless and vivacious as he reimagined house codes—like the line of the Bar jacket and the drape of an evening dress—in contemporary ways. For the September 2013 issue, Bazaar collaborated with Simons and the artist Robert Longo on a story that juxtaposed looks from Simons's fall collection for Dior with several of Longo's pieces, memorably situating the Belgian designer in front of an image of a shark with its jaws wide open. "I'm very scared sometimes that fashion might attack its own magic by the amount of exposure," Simons, who designed for Dior until 2015, lamented. "If you want something and you have to wait for it, you enjoy it, probably, longer."
Clockwise from top left: Nicole Kidman on the November 2012 cover, photographed by Terry Richardson; Kate Moss on the December 1992 cover, photographed by Patrick Demarchelier; Gwen Stefani on the May 2007 cover, photographed by Peter Lindbergh; Drew Barrymore on the March 2013 cover, photographed by Daniel Jackson; Gwyneth Paltrow on the May 2013 cover, photographed by Jackson; Jennifer Lawrence on the May 2016 cover, photographed by Mario Sorrenti; all in Dior.
In more recent years, Dior has continued to fuel great moments in the pages of Bazaar, buoyed by the house's lofty perch in the pantheon of high fashion and deep connections to the worlds of film, music, and art. In December 1992, Kate Moss graced her first Bazaar cover—and first American magazine cover—in a Dior dress and cape. The May 2016 cover heralded another supernova, Jennifer Lawrence, also in Dior. On the subscriber cover of this issue, Rihanna takes flight in an haute couture Dior gown. Dior also made more of its own history last year by naming Maria Grazia Chiuri as its first female artistic director, ushering in yet another new age for a house that has been defined for the past 70 years not just by the illustriousness of its past but by its embrace of the future.