image: two books on 20th century fashion and cup of tea

two books on 20th century fashion and cup of tea

NEW AUTUMN SCHEDULE: 1 Nouvelles per week. Usually Sundays.

|| 17 September 2023

Certain Age Chic

My tea reading lately has been Christian Dior: The Man Who Made The World Look New. The book on the legendary French fashion designer is by Marie-France Pochna. Originally written in French, the English version was translated by Joanna Savill. The book published in 1996 has long been on my bookshelf, but I had only dipped into parts, specifically about Dior’s death from a heart attack while trying to lose weight at an Italian spa. This time I read the book cover to cover.

From Dior, I moved on to A Dash of Daring by Penelope Rowlands, a biography of the Irish-American fashion editor of Harper’s Bazaar, Carmel Snow. It was she who had christened Dior’s revolutionary style he introduced in 1947 as the New Look.

The lives of both, who had such an impact on fashion in the mid-20th century, blaze brilliantly, then end sadly.

In my copy of A Dash of Daring, I found tucked between the pages a plethora of notes I had made while reading the book at the time it was released in 2005. One note referenced a passage in Chapter 4 An Elegant Life describing Harper’s Bazaar under Carmel Snow’s editorship:

The magazine was not aimed at the youth market. Refreshingly, there wasn’t such a thing, or at least one that mattered. An early client of haute couture Alice-Leone Moats recalled that “The French didn’t believe that true chic could be attained much before the age of 40. They are convinced it took a long time to learn the art of dressing and to develop an individual style … by then, when a woman’s looks were beginning to fade she had to have chic or she had nothing.”

Now that is no longer true. Chic is still important — but there are medical treatments, exercise programs, nutritional supplements, and cosmetic products that make ageing gracefully easier. Still it takes effort and women need guidance. Fashion publications still give advice. Fashion designers still produce clothes that make a woman look chic.

be chic, stay slim — Anne Barone