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In March 1948, LIFE introduced its readers to a pioneering French fashion designer and what the magazine called his “revolutionary” vision. The monsieur in question was none other than (in writer Jeanne Perkins marvelous characterization) “a timid, middle-aged, insignificant-looking little Frenchman named Christian Dior,” and the fashion earthquake he unleashed was something called, simply and unforgettably, the New Look.
Here, LIFE.com not only offers a glimpse back at a seminal moment in fashion history, but presents pictures — some that appeared in the magazine, many that were never published — by some of LIFE’s finest photographers, taken at a Dior show in Paris in 1948, when the New Look was all the rage and a timid, middle-aged, insignificant-looking little Frenchman astonished and thrilled the couture world.
Below is an abridged version of the article that ran in the March 1, 1948, issue of LIFE, beneath the one-word headline: DIOR.
“Three weeks ago,” LIFE concluded, “the new spring showing of Dior models opened in Paris. ‘Chalk up another fast one for Christian Dior,’ exhorted WNBC’s Peter Roberts. ‘Yesterday he let the world in on his ideas for 1948. And the folks who should know were betting dollars to doughuts he was going to lengthen skirts a little more. But friend Dior shortened skirts! Not much — but shortened. Just one inch. . . .'”