When the French designer Christian Dior presented his first collection in Paris in 1947, he changed fashion forever. Dior’s “New Look” created a striking, romantic vision of femininity, luxury, and grace, making him—and his last name—famous overnight. One woman informed Dior’s vision more than any other: his sister, Catherine, a Resistance fighter, concentration camp survivor, and cultivator of rose gardens who inspired Dior’s most beloved fragrance, Miss Dior. Yet the story of Catherine’s remarkable life—so different from her famous brother’s—has never been told, until now.
Drawing on the Dior archives and extensive research, Justine Picardie’s Miss Dior is the long-overdue restoration of Catherine Dior’s life. The siblings’ stories are profoundly intertwined: in Occupied France, as Christian honed his couture skills, Catherine dedicated herself to the Resistance, ultimately being captured by the Gestapo and sent to Ravensbruck, the only Nazi camp solely for women. Seeking to trace Catherine’s story as well as her influence on her brother, Picardie traveled to the significant places of Catherine’s life, including Les Rhumbs, the Dior family villa with its magnificent gardens; the House of Dior in Paris; and La Colle Noire, Christian’s chateâu that he bequeathed to his sister.
Inventive and captivating, and shaped by Picardie’s own journey, Miss Dior examines the legacy of Christian Dior, the secrets of postwar France, and the unbreakable bond between two remarkable siblings. Most important, it shines overdue recognition on a previously overlooked life, one that epitomized courage and also embodied the astonishing capacity of the human spirit to remain undimmed, even in the darkest circumstances.
"Picardie has written a moving and impressive history of wartime politics, death camps, postwar trials, collaboration and the invigorating world of haute couture. She gets much of her Ravensbrück material from victims who left records of their experiences and made small, heartbreaking drawings and gifts to keep their spirits up. Miss Dior is a tricky book to pull off but Ms. Picardie is a sensitive, elegant writer and—hard as it is to imagine—for the most part she succeeds. Although not a coffee table book, it’s beautiful, lavishly illustrated with lovely photographs and drawings, many in color."—Moira Hodgson, The Wall Street Journal
“Remarkable.”—Hamish Bowles, Vogue
“Picardie’s book is of the moment . . . celebrating an unsung hero.”—Laird Borrelli-Persson, Vogue
“Moving and beautifully illustrated.”—Christiana Bishop, New Statesman
“The juxtaposition of terrible shadows and dazzling light is one of the great strengths of this book . . . [Miss Dior] is a very personal, very passionate book.”—Artemis Cooper, Times Literary Supplement
“Picardie’s research is remarkable, her writing grabs and holds the reader tight from beginning to end . . . An exceptional discussion on France during WWII and the couture industry, [Miss Dior] is fascinating reading and will not disappoint.”—Judith Reveal, New York Journal of Books
“Extraordinary . . . The result is Netflix-worthy and the pace page-turning as Picardie presents a woman who appeals beyond the boundaries of Planet Fashion . . . Catherine’s story . . . shines—the quiet Dior who preferred flowers to fashion, the unsung heroine who survived the abuse of the Third Reich to help liberate France.”—Jackie Annesley, The Sunday Times (UK)
“Catherine’s story is beautifully, hauntingly told in spare and elegant prose by Picardie . . . awe-inspiring.”—Laura Freeman, The Times (UK)
“As subtle as it is fragrant, Justine Picardie’s book casts a strong spell that lingers.”—Benjamin Taylor, author of Here We Are and The Hue and Cry at Our House
“Miss Dior portrays a woman who has too long stood hidden in the shadow of her famous brother, Christian. While full of import for them both, Catherine Dior’s kinship with the great fashion designer may well have been her least noteworthy trait. A fighter in the French Resistance, a survivor of the Ravensbrück death camp, and a creator of the rose gardens that inspired the fragrance Miss Dior, she is an inspiring, unforgettable figure, worthy of Picardie’s inspiring, unforgettable prose.”—Caroline Weber, author of Proust’s Duchess and Queen of Fashion
"Picardie interweaves a sensitive narrative of her search for Catherine as she follows the 'echoing footfall of a disappearing girl.' A well-informed rendering of dramatic times."—Kirkus Reviews
Reviews from Goodreads
Into the Rose Garden
This is the story of a ghost who walked into my life on a sunlit Sunday morning in early summer, and would not let go of me, however much I might wish, at times, to be free of her. Her name is Catherine Dior, and...