... painstaking archival research. Picardie has pieced the story together from others who were with Catherine Dior at the same time and who did leave records of what they had undergone: not for themselves, but for the dead fellow-prisoners they could never forget. Some of the most moving images in this richly illustrated book are the tiny drawings and gifts that the women made for each other in Ravensbrück, to keep themselves from despair and maintain their self-respect ... the juxtaposition of terrible shadows and dazzling light is one of the great strengths of this book ... She charts the development of the Christian Dior fashion house with gusto, conveying the excitement and wonder ... This is a very personal, very passionate book ... It is perhaps ungenerous to be impatient with her wistful musings at certain points in the narrative, because Picardie makes the reader realize just how much glancing away, how much silence and deliberate forgetting, it took to remake postwar France.
Catherine is an elusive, haunting presence in Miss Dior ... Ms. 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. The admirable Catherine, however, remains largely absent, which, after all, is probably what she would have wanted.
Catherine’s story is beautifully, hauntingly told in spare and elegant prose ... The archive photographs...are moving and evocative, and inspired in this shabby book reviewer not a little gown envy ... What starts as glossy advertorial becomes something quite different, something awful and awe-inspiring. Catherine’s life might have been bookended by roses, but there was a thicket of thorns in between ... This is a book about the Resistance and collaboration, haute couture and black marketeers, about the occupation and the resurrection of Paris. But it is not a portrait of Catherine Dior. She disappears for tens of pages at a time ... This book is beguilingly told and a lovely object in its own right. It just doesn’t do what it says on the bottle.
... far more than a simple collation of archival material exploring the intersection of fashion and war in the 20th century, with Picardie’s personal reflections adding an effective emotional thread ... The book juxtaposes the macabre and ethereal, reflecting the contradictions of this era ... In Miss Dior the perfume ... At times, Picardie’s vibrant description makes it seem as if the scent is wafting off the page. Ultimately, Catherine Dior remains an elusive figure, but by following in her footsteps, Miss Dior ensures the bravery of the women at Ravensbrück is not merely a distant echo.
Although Miss Dior describes the 'backdrop of moral ambiguity' during the postwar years, the book sheds little light on Christian Dior’s position ... a record of two different but coexisting stories: the unspeakable trauma suffered by individual Resistance fighters such as Catherine and the unrepentant continuation of life and business of many couturiers, including her brother ... At times, as Picardie jumps from the desperation of Ravensbrück to the glamour of Parisian high-society salons, the author seems to lose her plot. Is this a book about Catherine and her story of courage, or is it an account of Christian’s career and the business of couture under and after occupation? The two stories seem incompatible but Miss Dior’s success is in capturing the absurdity of their coexistence.
... while [Catherine's] extreme bravery during the war is not in doubt, there’s little for Picardie to go on even in that period: no diaries, no letters, few eyewitness accounts. To bring this part of her life alive, she must rely on the experiences of other Resistance fighters, the work of other historians ... she remains a shadow. For pages at a time, there’s no mention of her at all. I enjoyed reading Miss Dior, though Picardie can be a bit wafty; she’s always communing with spirits ... The book is full of things like this: unlikely, even bizarre, shafts of light that have you blinking, given the darkness all around. It’s also beautiful; her publisher has done her proud. But it comes with so much padding. A long account of the relationship of Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII, for instance, cannot be justified by the fact that the former was a client of Dior (their connection with Catherine is nonexistent). Like a dress by some wilfully edgy label...its constituent parts seem not to go together. The sleeves don’t match the bodice, and there’s a gaping hole where there really shouldn’t be one.
...there are very few sources of information that give insight into Catherine Dior or tell her story. As a result, Dior remains a ghostly presence hovering just off the edge of the pages of Miss Dior: A Story of Courage and Couture. Regardless of Picardie’s extraordinary access to the archives and her own travels in search of some kind of spiritual connection with Dior, a nuanced and complete portrait of Dior eludes her ... Picardie overcomes the absence of Catherine’s first hand account of her life and experiences by recounting the stories of other women who went through the same things ... The second half of the book, in which Picardie attempts to connect Catherine Dior to her brother Christian’s design business, is less successful ... Picardie’s determination to create a connection between Catherine’s life and her brother’s work results in a truly egregious comparison between inmate portraits...to photos of Christian with a fashion model and one of his dresses ... contains two potentially good books ... Justine Picardie’s attempt to stitch their stories together beyond that sibling relationship fails and in the process deprives Catherine Dior of the biography she deserves.
Picardie's biography exhibits deep appreciation for Christian and a craving to understand Catherine's life; the only detriment is the limited glimpses into Catherine's life, perhaps because too much time is devoted to a wider narrative of World War II ... Outstanding scholarship reveals Catherine Dior's participation in the French Resistance. Overall, this is a haunting biography that carefully examines Catherine's largely unexplored life and will have broad appeal to fashion or World War II enthusiasts.
Undaunted by this scant personal information, Picardie still creates compelling profiles of both Catherine and Christian ... Picardie’s writing reflects touching introspection, meticulous research, and shrewd organization, and every chapter includes intriguing archival photos. Readers will respect Catherine’s strength and quiet dignity; recognize Christian’s iconic fashions and glamorous clientele, and grimly anticipate the fates of Nazi sympathizers and collaborators. Ultimately this complex account is profoundly moving, surprisingly fresh, and deeply satisfying.
... [an] evocative yet thin biography ... Picardie’s narrative, though it weaves in the stories of other captured operatives and intriguing asides about perfumery, cooperation between French fashion houses and the Nazis, and other topics, suffers from the lack of firsthand information about its subject. Readers will find that the essence of this remarkable woman remains elusive.
Although British novelist, fashion historian, and memoirist Picardie...tries to maintain the focus on Catherine, her life becomes subsumed within a sweeping history of war, French politics, and fashion ... The book is generously illustrated with family and historical photographs, Dior’s drawings, and fashion images, and Picardie interweaves a sensitive narrative of her search for Catherine ... A well-informed rendering of dramatic times.