Beach Read #2 features something a little more light and airy than “Hinterkind”. I love historical non-fiction, so whenever there is a historical non-fiction GN, I seek it out. Annie Goetzinger is an amazing illustrator and has written an charming story about famed fashion designer Christian Dior in “Girl in Dior”.
French author/artist Annie Goetzinger’s “Girl in Dior” is the fictional account of Clara Nohant, a young fashion reporter attending the first fashion show of new Parisian designer Christian Dior in 1946. Taken aback by the decadence of the designs in post-World War II Paris, Clara falls immediately in love with the feminine silhouettes and joyful colors which Dior’s designs have draped her in. As her relationship with the designer grows, she is given the opportunity to model, and her life begins anew, modeling in Paris, England, for Royalty and Hollywood elite, epitomizing the “new fashion” sensation and creating a scandal. As she becomes entrenched with Dior’s posse of socialites, seamstresses, accessorizers, and models, Clara and Dior grow and learn what it means to reinvent fashion and oneself.
Clara is naïve, but not in the lacking wisdom, negative sort of way; she is naïve in the sense that she experiences Dior’s world with wide-eyed wonder, expecting nothing and everything at the same time. As a working class woman helping to support her mother and grandmother, Clara gives the reader a very interesting perspective. She traverses the line between the European bourgeoisie, who bounced back quickly after the war, and the working class, who continue to suffer the hardships of war. Goetzinger’s ability to create a relatable character who experiences a complete character arc, continuing to develop and change as her story, and Dior’s, progress.
Goetzinger’s artistic style feels as though the sketches of fashion designers have come to life to tell their story. The watercolor touches and translucent colors reflect the essence of Dior; flirty, feminine, and fanciful. With the European influences apparent, the art lends itself to simplicity. Many single-page spreads focus on the character and lack a background all together. Unbridled by the 3 x 3 grid domination of American comics and GNs, no page has more than three rows, giving the readers undivided attention to the relationship between the words and the art. While many may be thrown off by the European tradition for long, narrative non-dialogue sections, I feel it enhances the connections the reader makes with the illustrations and the fashion itself. Even though we never feel the decadent texture of the fabrics, Goetzinger’s framing and descriptions transport the reader to a room flowing with fabric, the crepes and silks soft against your skin.
What I love most about “Girl in Dior” is Goetzinger’s use of color to convey emotion. When Clara first becomes a model for Dior, she is hesitant. She’s fitted with a linen, all-white mockup of what one day will become a signature Dior dress. Dior sits back in a chair, examining the rough draft, critiquing the work. As we flip the pages and the garment is slowly reconstructed, we see the dress transform and are hit with a pop of pink and a hint of the final design. The progress in confidence of both Clara and Dior are clear during this tiny exchange between muse and artist.
A great addition to “Girl in Dior” is the back matter. While I am by no means a fashion maven, Goetzinger provides the reader with information about fabric types and Dior’s personal beliefs about accessories, the types of careers for his over 1,000 employees, a detailed timeline of Dior’s life, and an intimate look at those nearest and dearest to Dior himself including Lauren Bacall, Rita Heyworth, and Princess Margaret. Worshiped by the elite of both Europe and America, Goetzinger portrays Dior as a humble man, a man who would work tirelessly to make women around the world feel elegant.
Although Clara seems to be our protagonist, we follow her from young fashion reporter, to model, to high society, Dior is in fact our main, albeit absent, character. While we follow her undying devotion to Dior up until his sudden death in 1957, the book instantly ends as well. This reminds the reader that the “girl” is not the subject of “Girl in Dior”, but “Dior” is the subject, and the story is how one designer can permeate the life of a woman during her formative years and how even when he is gone, his legacy lives on in the people and styles he influenced.
Whether or not fashion intrigues you, I highly recommend you to check this book out. From a historical fiction perspective, “Girl in Dior” is an amazing study of not only fashion and art, but the societal repercussions of World War II. Goetzinger’s art is stunning, transporting you to the airy streets of Paris and the luscious world of high fashion. A wonderfully well written and researched story, “Girl in Doir” gives everyone the opportunity to experience the short lived fashion prodigy that was Dior and the impact he had on the everyday woman.