When Christian Dior introduced his luxurious New Look in the ‘50s, he established a series of strict fashion rules for women to follow. His 1954 “Little Dictionary of Fashion,” stated, “You can wear the same suit from morning to dinner—but to be really perfectly dressed, you can not keep the same bag. For morning, it must be very simple, and for the evening, it must be smaller and, if you wish, a little more fancy.”
But, according the rules of the era, a “good” simple day bag had to be made of the finest exotic skins like python or ostrich and hand-crafted to the highest degree of quality. The irony being that while Dior was crafting his dresses with billowy full crinoline skirts and tiny waists, he was not that concerned with the handbags himself. When putting a runway look together, it was low on the pecking order in his fashion house.
In fact, it was Dior who introduced the concept of licensing to haute couture. He would farm out handbag production to other luxury good companies, who then benefited from the Midas touch of putting the Dior name on their products.
Decades after Christian Dior’s death, the handbag became an important piece of the Dior collection in 1990s. And in 1995, the fashion house introduced the biggest “it bag” of the 20th century, the Lady Dior. The story goes that Bernadette Chirac, the first lady of France, gave Princess Diana this bag, which featured cannage stitched leather and four charms for each of the letters in DIOR. Lady Di fell in love with the bag and bought one in every style and color. Thanks to her, in the year 1997, 140,000 of these newly dubbed Lady Dior bags sold for $1,200.
Designer John Galliano, with his wildly inventive purses, is largely responsible for the company’s success in the handbag market. His Saddle Bag, which has appear on “Sex and The City,” is shaped like a saddle with C and D charms hanging from miniature leather stirrups. In 2007, he redesign his iconic bag into 12 new styles representing 12 countries—Argentina, Mexico, France, Russia, Morocco, Spain, China, the United States, India, Japan, Egypt and England. Other popular Galliano bags include the Rasta bag, the Samurai, and the Dior 61.