This biography of Catherine Dior, Christian Dior's younger sister, illuminates the overlooked life of a quietly courageous and extraordinary woman. A member of the French Resistance during World War II, Catherine suffered torture by the Nazis and escaped a much-altered woman as her brother's fashion empire skyrocketed to fame.
... 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.