Miss Dior is a follow-up to Justine Picardie’s fine biography of the celebrated French couturier, Coco Chanel. Near the beginning of the book, Picardie, a former editor of Harper’s Bazaar UK, explains that she was invited to write a life of Christian Dior (a designer once memorably described by Cecil Beaton as resembling a bashful curate fashioned from pink marzipan). The great couturier has already been the subject of four biographies and a V&A show in 2019, so Picardie sensibly decided to focus her attention instead on the courageous woman the reticent designer loved most: his sister Catherine. Miss Dior, a perfume tinged with lily of the valley, was his public homage to her. Catherine’s enduring affection for Christian (always ‘Tian’ to his sister) was more discreetly signalled by her practice of keeping a fresh bottle of Miss Dior at her bedside, until her death, aged ninety, in 2008.
Born in 1917, twelve years after Christian, Catherine grew up in Normandy. Tragedy came early. Her oldest brother, Raymond, the only member of his platoon not to be killed in battle during the First World War, never recovered from the sense of survivor’s guilt. Shortly after the unexpected