MISS DIOR The New Feminism

Christian Dior’s iconic fragrance Miss Dior remains the embodiment of new feminism and liberty

When famed couturier Christian Dior unveiled his defining New Look in 1947, he not only revolutionised women’s wardrobes, with a new, voluminous yet seductive silhouette, he also presented them with the ultimate style gift: his first eau in Miss Dior. He proclaimed that the fragrance, the epitome of luxury, would serve as the finishing touch to a dress – one of the reasons why he’s regarded as a visionary. But the fragrance was more than just a symbol of style and beauty; it was conceptualised with modern feminism in mind, as inspired by his sister.

Mademoiselle Catherine Dior was no ordinary woman. In 1944, as a member of the French Resistance, Catherine was arrested, tortured and imprisoned by the Nazis, until she was liberated in 1945. Despite the hardships she and many more suered at the hands of the Nazis, Catherine returned to Paris a survivor and a heroine. Her defiance was celebrated with several medals, including the prestigious Légion d’Honneur. Two years later, her brother named his inaugural fragrance in her honour.

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Its naming – Miss Dior – although innately chic, was serendipitous: while in his design studio in Avenue Montaigne, Dior and muse Mitzah Bricard received an unexpected visit from Catherine. Upon her entrance into the studio, Mitzah said: ‘Voilà Miss Dior’, and legend has it that the couturier said: ‘Miss Dior, now there’s a name for my perfume.’ And an icon was born. Defiant and determined, Miss Dior (both the inspiration and the fragrance) went on to symbolise liberty and heroism. Dior wanted to promote a new sense of self in post-war Europe – where possibilities were endless and fantasy and sensuality became a way of life. His design vision was to beautify and enrich women’s lives through fashion and fragrance, and he expanded that fantasy to Hollywood, where the likes of Grace Kelly and Olivia de Havilland wore his designs.

The fragrance was considered revolutionary then, and that legacy continues today. Miss Dior was, and remains, a celebration of contrasts: youth and timelessness, free-spiritedness and sophistication, tradition and modernism. All these characteristics are evident in the reincarnation of the fragrance in its latest (and ultra-modern) campaign, starring longtime Christian Dior ambassador Natalie Portman. In a video entitled It’s Miss, Actually, celebrated Dutch director Anton Corbijn (Control, A Man Most Wanted, The American), presents Oscar-winning Portman as the unwilling bride edging closer to an unwelcome reality.

As she walks hesitantly down the aisle, dressed in bespoke Dior, alongside her father, the story segues from colour to black and white, where the young bride listens to her intuition and frees herself. As she makes her way to the edge of the cliff (overlooking the picturesque Côte d’Azur) she sheds the layers of her old self (by removing the ethereal white gown) and reveals the newly liberated, all-grown-up woman that she has become (in a little black dress), as ‘the one’ sweeps her o her feet – in a modern touch – in a helicopter, with Janis Joplin’s anthemic Piece of My Heart playing in the background. Defiant, heroic and authentic, she is following her own path – much like the inspiration behind the original fragrance. Voilà the Miss Dior in all of us.

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