Of all the books released by graphic novel publisher NBM, the one perhaps least designed to catch my male nerd eye is Annie Goetzinger’s Girl in Dior. A French Graphic novel set in the rarefied fashion world of Christian Dior? Seriously?
Yet Girl in Dior proved an intriguing look at the cultural shockwave that was Dior fashion. Arriving in a post-war France still reeling from years of wartime occupation, Dior’s line served as a boost to Parisians’ morale, an affirmation of elegance. If that image was a somewhat discriminating one (only a few women had the body type to pull off a Dior, after all), to a degree it was inspired by the years of hardship that preceded it. “Nobody ate anything during the Occupation,” one of Dior’s “darlings” notes at the start of his first big show.
Our entry into Monsieur Dior’s world is through Clara, a young gamine who comes to the opening of the 1947 Printemps line as a fashion reporter, ultimately to find a place as one of the line’s models after a magazine photo shoot goes awry. Modelled after Audrey Hepburn, our heroine proves an observant set of eyes to this world (though the artist occasionally cheats by showing the designer in solitude). Through her, we get to see the man’s rise to celebrity and the controversy that his initial designs sparked, most amusingly in the United States where dissatisfied women actually picketed against the Dior line’s lower hemlines.
Girl in Dior loses a bit of its thrust once our heroine meets a romantic nobleman, falls in love and becomes one of Dior’s customers instead of a model. Removed from the backstage, Clara just doesn’t prove as interesting as her mentor. It’s the Dior part of the story that fascinates us, not the Girl.
Goetzinger’s art, clean-lined with light coloring, deliberately recalls fashion illustration – lots of renderings of airy beautiful people in the panels’ forefront – which suits her subject matter. It’s a wholly benevolent world (apart from some mild behind-the-scenes sniping) that may run counter to the way most of us plebes imagine the behind-the-scenes fashion scene to be, but who’s to say this vision isn’t true? For the length of Girl in Dior, at least, I believed it.
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