At the end of the 1940s, an air of optimism slowly came back to Europe and, once again, the great fashion designers made history as the emblems of elegance and sophistication during the postwar years. Christian Dior-a career diplomat-turned-fashion designer, and destined to be called Monsieur Dior, as if it were his royal title, caught the attention of powerful women like Joan Crawford and Eva Peron with an iconic fashion show where he launched his first signature fragrance, Miss Dior. Luxury was returning to the always enigmatic world of women through revolutionary silhouettes, marked by shapely shoulders, accentuated waists and corolla skirts, frequently adorned with the classic elegance of peplum.
The Parisian scene of 1953 was the realm of Dior. The indomitable designer turned the maison, located at number 30 Avenue Montaigne, into a temple for new aesthetics, and Monsieur Dior became the supreme high priest of fashion. His masterstroke was to highlight women’s smiles with a pure carmine that would evoke power, sensuality and elegance, all at once. Dior Rouge, a lipstick with a voluptuously bright texture, became an icon of femininity.
Immediately, the great couturier’s muses adopted it as a standard, although film directors of the time considered it too intense for the screen. Delicate and subtle, Grace Kelly responded with a candid smile to the suggestion that she changed the tone of her lipstick, but continued wearing it. Always sardonic, Bette Davis showed up wearing it on the first day of filming All About Eve: “May I introduce Eve … and Monsieur Rouge,” she said to a stunned Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Meanwhile, a resounding Marlene Dietrich also had to defend it before the intransigent Alfred Hitchcock. When the brawl over her lipstick became unbearable during the filming of Stage Fright, the diva launched her irrevocable sentence: “No Dior? No Dietrich!”.
“Rouge is the color of power”, says a claim that echoes the words of the legendary founder of the Parisian firm. The anecdotal evidence confirms it, and 60 years later, this color still dresses female lips and remains an icon of contemporary elegance and power, worn by the modern ambassadors of the brand.
Madonna chose it for Vogue, one of her most celebrated videos, and Monica Bellucci has adopted it as her trademark. “It is the perfect symbol of femininity. It is a legend. I’m sure Christian Dior thought lipstick was an essential weapon of seduction. The color, the attitude … the magic still lives on”, says Natalie Portman, the face of the Dior Rouge campaign for its 60th birthday.
The star of Black Swan wears No. 999, a hue introduced for this anniversary. Behind the lens, the talented Steven Meisel achieved the perfect chromatic composition. I would dare say that at this point no movie director would resist the most intense and emblematic ally of a woman’s makeup. Certainly, from somewhere in any dimension, Monsieur Dior must be smiling contentedly. ■