Girl in Dior

Girl in Dior

With most graphic novels, I’m driven by the story (or in the case of non-fiction titles, the information). I love reading comics as a blend of words and pictures, using both sides of my brain at once, and too many problems with one or the other will interfere with that enjoyment, but if I have to pick the part I respond to most strongly, it’s most often the text content. Girl in Dior is a departure for me, in that I enjoyed it most because of the images.

NBM is calling this a biography, but it’s more complicated than that. Annie Goetzinger combines information on Christian Dior’s career and designs with a fictional story about a young woman whose life keeps intertwining with his dresses. That story is the unfortunate part of this book, since it’s much too fanciful.

Clara, who visually resembles Audrey Hepburn, is a young journalist who is sent to cover the first Dior fashion show in 1947 as her first story. She then helps organize a photo shoot of the clothes, before becoming a model for the fashion house. That leads to her meeting and marrying a Duke, so she can then be a customer of the expensive clothes. This is all quite unbelievable to happen to just one person. It’s like a fairy tale, not a bad comparison since there are plenty of fairy godmothers behind the scenes clothing these attractive young women.

Girl in Dior

It’s wonderful to see such lovely historical fashion drawn so well. The New Look dresses, with their full skirts and nipped waists, are so beautiful! Goetzinger understands the construction of clothes, giving the outfits real weight and presence. The occasional celebrity likeness adds an air of glamour. And the details of how a collection is put together are quite interesting. Plus, I’m really pleased to see a European graphic novel translated that goes beyond the usual male-focused space or fantasy adventurer stuff.

I enjoyed the nods to how difficult it must have been in post-war France to balance the rise of this new symbol of elegance against recent history and the deprivations everyday people were still dealing with. The details of Girl in Dior will make the most sense to those who already know something of fashion history, particularly when it comes to key people in Dior’s life who are mentioned without sufficient explanation, but the images are well worth the time.

The book also has a chronology of key events, a list of Dior collections, a list of personalities, a glossary, and a bibliography. Here’s an interview with Goetzinger about the book. (The publisher provided a review copy and has posted preview pages.)


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