Though it was founded in 1946, Dior didn’t start producing makeup until 1950. Crucially, this was two years after Christian Dior had designed the famous New Look (introducing a new shape in fashion), which had been a hit with fashion editors all over the world, especially Carmel Snow at US Harper’s Bazaar. Red was emblematic of the brand and the red Dior dresses became an in-house tradition with everyone waiting for the red dress. So it makes sense that Dior’s first foray into makeup was lipstick.
In February 1950, a document at the Dior archives shows that they produced three-hundred-and-fifty limited-edition lipsticks though whether they sold them or gave them as gifts to special customers is unclear. But the first full range of lipsticks, Rouge Dior, was three years in the making, and it was 1953 when nine thousand lipsticks in eight shades were launched.
Ingeniously, Dior’s lipstick came in two different designs, one for your dressing table that was fabulously decadent, encased in a plastic obelisk shape perfect for displaying, and one for your handbag, which was a chic, simple metallic case. Both were refillable. Special customers could get the dressing-table version in its own special box there’s one in the Dior archives that is hand-signed by Mr. Dior to his special client Mrs. Vanderbilt!
Christian Dior understood that there was a market to be reached for whom couture wasn’t an option. In the words of Frederic Bourdelier, the Brand Culture and Heritage Manager at Parfums Christian Dior, if you couldn’t afford to dress in Christian Dior, then you could at least dress your smile in it.
More lipstick colors very modern and vibrant oranges and pinks were introduced in 1955, and by 1959 there were eighteen shades, including Bois de Rose. By 1959 the first powder compact had also been launched, with very chic, pared-back, art deco-style packaging and the additional offer of personalized engraving; it was the ultimate in luxury makeup. Though the compact came two years afer Christian Dior’s death so he never saw the final design he had been very keen to launch a powder and had worked on the earlier stages.
Dior was the first European couture house to launch a range of nail polish at the relatively early date of 1962 (the cult Creme Abricot nail cream was released in 1963), so that one could match her nails to her lips. It’s clear from the beauty advertising archives that by the mid- to late fifties, sales of the lipstick (and later the varnish) had spread quickly across the globe, and it was available in Australia, Kenya, Denmark, South Africa, Angola, and many other countries.