French Museum Explores Christian Dior’s Floral Inspiration

July 15, 2013 Updated: July 17, 2013

Summer is a great time to appreciate the scents and colors of nature in Normandy that inspired Christian Dior. The Les Rhumbs villa—Dior’s childhood home in Granville, France—with its garden overlooking the Chausey islands, reveals the sources of inspiration of the fashion designer.

It exposes his keen interest for flowers, roses, lily-of-the-valley, as well as the nuances in the sea and the sky’s colors: gray, mauve, and blue. This strong relation to nature was also a characteristic of the impressionist painters, who similarly found inspiration in their gardens, in fields or in the seaside’s capricious light.

The Dior museum in Granville, France, is celebrating this relationship with the exhibition “Impression Dior,” part of the “Normandy and Impressionism” festival.

Commissionner of the exhibit, Florence Muller, tells us about the house of an enriching boyhood:

“The house is fully open onto nature which surrounds it, onto the garden, and beyond it, the sea. This house is built in a very particular place, on top of a cliff. High walls protect the garden where roses and lily-of-the-valley blossom. Beyond that wall, the horizon is infinite; very impressive, very romantic. Christian Dior spent the first part of his life in this environment which was also his first source of inspiration.”

Seeing Flowers

In 1947, Christian Dior created his New Look from the image of the flower-woman, and gives back to women a feminine silhouette. He sets the fashion of winding silhouette lines like a flower’s corolla or thin as their stem, and of airy flowery fabrics with colors of the sky and sea.

The Vilmorin afternoon dress, in white Organza lined with daisies, is named after the famous seed merchant in Paris, the Vilmorin Company, whose catalog Dior loved to leaf through as a child.

Creations by other Dior designers are also shown—Raf Simons, John Galliano, Gianfranco Ferre, Yves Saint Laurent—who despite some differences all keep with the stem line or corolla line with a marked waistline, with the same inspiration with textiles from the floral universe.

Fashion and the Impressionists

The link with Impressionist painters can also be found with the comeback of hats, especially the (wide-brimmed) capeline, in accordance with feminine elegance. A hat collection is proposed to visitors: from fancy hats of the 1960s, again with a link to the floral world, to traditional straw hats with velvet bows.

The same shapes and sources of inspiration as the Impressionists can be recognized: curvy women, women in dresses, women in underskirts and corsets, painted with such love, also inspired the fashion designer in his creation of sophisticated and nostalgic lingerie. Ballroom dancing is another source of inspiration he draws from the world of impressionism.

Evening dresses are very important in Christian Dior’s fashion house, glorifying women with wide skirts, and strapless dresses, giving post-war ladies a romantic side. Dior worked with noble fabrics such as silk, fur, and lace.

For each theme, garments are accompanied with an Impressionist’s painting: Degas’ “Dinner at the Ball,” Renoir’s maritime scenes, and Monet’s landscapes.

To close this harmonious visit, the garden must not be missed: the pool designed by Dior himself, the pine trees and the rose garden, not to forget the terrace from where the Channel islands can be discerned in the distance. Visitors are also able to enjoy an olfactory tour in ten stages each presenting an Impressionist piece in conjunction with Dior fragrances by François Demachy.

“Impression Dior” is showing at the Musée Christian Dior Granville until September.