Dior & the Legend

She was the most glamorous woman in the world, and he created the most the world’s most beautiful clothes. Jeff Smith investigates the unique relationship between Dietrich and Dior. Unlike Givenchy who is so closely associated with Audrey Hepburn, Christian Dior was not associated with only one face, probably because his clothes were worn by everyone who wanted to look au courant as soon as they appeared. Dior’s infamous February 12, 1947 inaugural collection, after training at the fashion houses of Robert Piguet and Lucien Lelong, caused jaws to drop and was dubbed the ‘new look, by Harpers Bazaar editor-in-chief, Carmel Snow. This collection changed fashion over night when Dior changed the silhouette from short and boxy to a long voluptuous hourglass with miles of fabric, making every woman’s wardrobe immediately obsolete.


Actress and cabaret entertainer Marlene Dietrich and her daughter, actress Maria Riva posed on the cover of Life magazine in 1947 in Dior’s new creations which Dietrich had adopted into her own wardrobe.

marlene dietrich

After years of starring in Josef von Sternberg’s sumptuously visual films and becoming an untouchable legend, Dietrich’s career was in decline. Her most redeeming work was her risky front-line entertainment of the allied troops during the Second World War, travelling the war zones of Europe accompanied by a semi-transparent Jean Louis beaded gown and her combat helmet, bringing, glamour and a reprieve from the horror of war to troops in Algeria, Italy, Britain, France and eventually Germany with General Patton, while having a high bounty on her head from Hitler for her betrayal of her motherland Germany.

marlene dietrich

When Dietrich was asked to be in Alfred Hitchcock’s film Stage Fright in 1949 she agreed with the proviso that she could choose her own costume designer for the film rather then relying on studio costumer Milo Anderson who was doing the clothes of the star, Jane Wyman. She did not choose another costume designer, but chose the world’s most famous couturier, Christian Dior.

marlene dietrich

Knowing the value of publicity Dietrich’s arrival in Paris, via Trans World Airlines and her visit to the House of Dior where well covered by the still and movie cameras as was the fashion show put on for her alone to choose her production wardrobe.

marlene dietrich

Working closely with the house, Dior and Dietrich created the sultry wardrobe seen in the film. She was notorious for being able to stand for 8 hours of fittings in a row to achieve faultlessness and the results show in the final film.

marlene dietrich

Stage Fright is a lost Hitchcock gem, always considered minor before the large commercial hit of Strangers on a Train the following year, it is actually a highly engaging film and you cannot take your eyes off the sleek Dietrich in any scene she is in, dripping of elegance in her Dior’s and unfortunately making star Jane Wyman, sixteen years her junior, look frumpy and unstylish. So obvious was the contrast that Wyman was in tears at the rushes, and continually fought to glamourize her character, to ill effect.

stage fright


Taking Wyman under her wing, Dietrich taught Wyman the lighting she needed, how to have her makeup applied and how to sculpt her cheekbones with makeup and lighting and providing an all round Professor Higgins on the young Wyman. Dietrich learned from possibly the greatest lighting artist of them all, von Sternberg, how to light and sculpt herself to her sublime perfection. ‘Conturing’ was already an old game to Madame Dietrich in 1949.


Dietrich steals the film from her younger costars and the expected fireworks with Hitchcock, another control freak went unheeded as he basically left Dietrich to light herself and direct herself, and for the most part play herself, to great effect. She proudly touted his comments calling her an absolute professional, a professional wardrober, a professional lighting technician (she was the only actress who ever had a union lighting card so she could light herself) and a professional director. She failed to notice however that he did not refer to her as a professional actress.


Remembering what Christian Dior had done for her, Marlene returned the favour to the house when she filmed a cameo in 1964’s Paris When It Sizzles where she slowly slinks out of a white Rolls Royce in a white Dior confection and strides into the house at 30 Avenue Montaigne Paris – a perfect way to thank her maestro.

marlene dietrich



  • Reply
    June 25, 2015 at 9:19 am

    @ZombiezByte Would love this

  • Reply
    Pau Jose
    June 25, 2015 at 8:35 am

    Such a beautiful woman Marlene!

  • Reply
    Barbara Wallace
    June 25, 2015 at 8:25 am

    Lovely to remember an era of glamour and style.

  • Reply
    Lora Beal
    June 25, 2015 at 3:10 am

    Classy and Beauty!

  • Reply
    June 24, 2015 at 10:31 pm

    its a great article that helps us a lot women to learn… she so glamorous woman

  • Reply
    Melissa Macintosh
    June 24, 2015 at 10:17 pm

    melissamcntsh56 likes Marlene very stylish, nice makeup

  • Reply
    Marilyn Nicholls
    June 24, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    Beautiful article! Love it! @Marilyn0926

  • Reply
    Tracy Noll
    June 24, 2015 at 8:43 pm

    Love the iconic era of chic! The clean lines in the outfits, very distinctive definition of makeup were the staples to the “classic” iconic look. Those woman knew how to pull it off just right! Bravo on your article Dave! Well done sir! @nascarnoll

  • Reply
    Nikki Cleeves
    June 24, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    @nikkidivenezia great article about a classic beauty

  • Reply
    Callie Jones
    June 24, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    I love Marlene Dietrich there will never be an actress like her I wish they would make movies like that

  • Reply
    Callie Jones
    June 24, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    I love

  • Reply
    Cynthia Knisely
    June 24, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    A lady a head of her time

  • Reply
    June 24, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    Classy lady!

  • Reply
    June 24, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    Hot hot hot!

    • Reply
      June 24, 2015 at 4:20 pm


  • Reply
    June 24, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    Fabulous article! Great palette! @ marilynmassoud

  • Reply
    June 24, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    @ZombiezByte would love to win this kit

  • Reply
    Angela Rivanera
    June 24, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    I didn`t knew that Marlene was such a perfectionist! It would be great if she were alive and could teach us come makeup tutorials!

  • Reply
    Muriel Michael
    June 24, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    Stunning classy Lady.. Beautiful it!!

  • Reply
    Ana Luisa Elias
    June 24, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    Dior the spirit of a fascinating woman……

  • Reply
    Evaggelia Zachariadou
    June 24, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    How gorgeous was she!!!! @litsazachariad1

  • Reply
    Carol Ann Westbook
    June 24, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    Marlene was the epitome of glamour. She continued to remain beautiful up into the time of her death. A big part of her appeal was the hint of mystery that always surrounded her, and her equisite taste in clothes made her stand out above many of her much younger co-stars. And who can forget her legs? Only Betty Grable came close to matching her!

  • Reply
    Ally M
    June 24, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    Such a glamorous woman Marlene was !!

  • Reply
    billi dauzat
    June 24, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    way sexy pretty cool an hot i wish i was

  • Reply
    June 23, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    So gorgeous! <3

  • Reply
    O. Sunrise
    June 23, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    What a fascinating and insightful article Dave! Marlene Dietrich was such a sophisticated and glamorous woman who had a unique charm of her own. Dior enhanced that beauty with his exquisite clothing. Being a fan of the Classic Silver Screen movies and collector of memorabilia from that period, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article. Many thanks for sharing with us!!! 😉

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