Sunday, November 24, 2013


French designer Christian Dior, who died in 1957 at the age of 52, remains a mythical figure, and Jeune fille en Dior will only add to the legend.

Cover of "Jeune fille en Dior".
This graphic novel by Annie Goetzinger tells the story of a young woman named Clara who works for a fashion magazine. She loves going to fashion shows and trying to spot stars such as Rita Hayworth and Marlene Dietrich. 

One day she proposes a photo shoot for Dior models and takes them to an outdoor market. But when a model grabs an apple as a cute accessory, she is attacked by an aggressive market vendor, and a nasty fight ensues. The magazine fires Clara but by then everyone at Dior knows her name.

She visits the couture house and meets the designer himself, who is charmed by her stories of her family’s interest in dressmaking; her grandmother also made clothes. Sometime later, Clara is called in to replace a pregnant model, and in this rags-to-couture story, the clothes make the girl.

Wearing Dior, Clara attracts interest and admiration and ends up marrying a wealthy man who takes her round the world. He unfortunately dies a few years later in a shipwreck, and Clara is plunged into sadness, with not even the luxurious garments of Dior able to lift her spirits.

Hearing the news of her misfortune, the designer calls and invites her to his latest fashion show, and he also takes her to lunch. In an optimistic mood, Dior tells her about his plans to go to Italy for a “cure” and to pass his business to his apprentices, including a young Yves Saint Laurent. “I will leave them a thriving company, celebrated throughout the world,” Dior says in the book.

A page from the book.
Days later, as she visits Dior’s birthplace in Normandy, Clara learns that the designer has died of a heart attack in Montecatini, Italy. “The date was 24 October 1957” when she heard the news, the author specifies.

She also notes that Clara is a fictional character meant to pay homage to Dior – “a tireless designer loved by his employees” who, in the space of 10 years, became a legend in the haute couture world.

The final section of the book gives chronological information on Dior’s life and his shows, including the private défilé put on for Britain’s queen and her sister in 1950. It also defines the various kinds of material such as tweed, tulle and shantung (a type of silk from the Chinese province of Shandong) used in fashion. 

The factual information enriches what might have been just another comic book. But the stilted style of the drawings, though evocative of the period, might not be to everyone's taste. (Publisher: Dargaud, Paris) - L. McKenzie & J.M. De Clercq