6/6 What Fashion Tells You - an Interview with Christian Dior: How to Wear Clothes

This is the last in the interview series with Christian Dior!  This section is mostly about general advice, the value of fashion, and the importance of authenticity.  Disclaimer, he has some words that may come off as a bit harsh or vaguely sexist to us modern readers, but I think his overall message is that any woman has the ability to be and feel truly beautiful through a combination of style skills, body acceptance,  grooming, and authenticity.  
Personally, I think this is a great message.  (P.S. The photos are from other articles in this same January 1953 issue of "Woman's Home Companion.")

What Fashion Tells You: an Interview with Christian Dior

I would like to tell you a little story about a friend of mine.  I know her well and the story is quite true.  She had a comfortable amount of money, a husband and family.  Her home life was dull, she was bored--and she looked every bit of it.  She always said fashion was absurd and it wasn't worth the trouble to bother.

The family grew up, finances took a turn for the worse.  She took a job in a good dress house.  For months she resisted the elegant atmosphere around her.

Then her fellow workers decided they had had enough.  Because they liked her, they literally forced her to make herself over.  They took her to the beauty parlor and saw her through the preliminary ordeals!

She is a largish woman, so they dress her in a simple skirt with a pretty blouse and loose short jacket.  They hung pearls around her neck; not valuable, you understand, but of a length to flatter her neck and face.  They gave her some large and dashing earrings.

The result of these endeavors surprised even the experienced members of the Maison de Couture!  The lady in question became so much happier that from being, candidly, something of an eyesore, she was suddenly attractive.

Believe it or not, she seemed pretty and desirable, yet she was fifty-four years old! Just imagine then what similar efforts can be done for the young.

There is no such thing as an ugly woman--there are only the ones who do not know how to make themselves attractive.  In France we have an expression which we use frequently to describe a woman whose features would normally be against her, but who has succeeded in making herself attractive all the same.  Laide means ugly--and of course jolie means pretty, so we call her the jolie laide.

The art of such a woman lies in finding her own personality; at all costs she must avoid being a pale imitation of the pretty.  She must be strongly and clearly individual.  To discover exactly how to do this naturally takes more time and effort than it does for the beauty to dress herself up.  But it is well worth the effort.

In case there are those who still think that personality must be allied to a lovely face, let me remark that pretty women who are too aware of it are bores who please nobody.

Now a little general advice for women whose mirrors are a bit discouraging.

They must be better groomed than their prettier sister.  Instead of the face, they are going to use clothes in all forms to express themselves.  The outline of clothes will depend on the figure but impeccable white or pastel-colored trimmings (collars, cuffs, revers and scarves) are very flattering.

Attractive bracelets on the wrists of well-groomed hands are pleasing and give confidence to the owner because she can enjoy them herself.  Normally you can't see what you have on.

Hats must look smart or be entirely inconspicuous.  The woman who knows she is not pretty loses badly by wearing "pretty" hats at indecisive angles.  They must be sharply straight or at an acute angle.  You don't want a vague dull frame for your picture!

Grooming is attention to detail.  The woman who knows she is well groomed from head to toe acquires self-confidence and poise.  To be unself-conscious is charming.  So now we have transformed a retiring plain-Jane into a charming woman!

Fashion has shown the world how to dispense with "plain-Janes" forever.  This is vastly encouraging to those who can overcome physical drawbacks with poise and individuality. 

There should be no such thing as an unattractive girl.  Merely to be a young girl at all is considered quite wonderful and the idea is catching--and very rewarding.

All women should know that simply to be a woman is to have the power to enchant--to be delightful.  Once they understand that, the rest should be easy!

So what are your thoughts?  Good advice or old-fashioned ridiculousness? 


  1. I've really enjoyed this series. I think this is actually all very good advice. I think dressing nicely and with a bit of thought can definitely help lift ones spirits! What I like is that he is very aware that beauty doesn't come in one form and it has more to do with how one presents themselves than how they are physically. I find this actually a very liberating attitude. I remember reading somewhere once that the whole shapewear/corset wearing back in the day actually meant that women were aware that their bodies couldn't always have the desired fashion figure, whilst nowadays women are more likely to diet/exercise to get what can be an unobtainable figure that is promoted- at least in the 50's they knew they needed shapewear to get there.
    Overall, I think all of Dior's advice is very body positive. Different figures suit different styles, and fashion is all about wearing what works for your body.

    1. YES! The acceptance of shapewear really makes a HUGE difference.

  2. I think it's good advice - especially not trying to imitate the pretty.

  3. I think this is good advice! It is amazing what taking time on your appearance can do for your confidence. I know that on the days I don't bother, I never feel as good about myself, as on the days when I take care in my dress. I wish all women knew what a confidence booster dressing well can be! Thanks so much for sharing these great excerpts- I've loved reading them.
    The Artyologist