Updated: Nov 26, 2020
Marc Bohan is a special designer, because he was not just a sketcher. He did everything himself: the toile, draping, and the fitting. His colleagues marveled at how efficiently and quickly he worked through the entire process.
Do you recognize Marc Bohan’s hand in this 1956 Patou?
Marc was the designer at the house of Patou in 1956, when this Vogue Paris Original design was released to home sewists. He had moved to the house of Patou in 1954, but was unhappy, because he was refused the right to have his name on the Patou label.
The then 34-year-old Bohan moved to the house of Dior, London in 1958. Bohan was with Dior, London, designing for two years, exclusively for the English market.
Even though Bohan was only at Dior, London for two years, he had a reputation as a "tried-and-tested" designer. He was also a close personal friend of the late Christian Dior, so one could imagine he had a personal understanding of the Dior "code".
When Yves Saint Laurent, the creative director for Dior, was drafted for twenty-seven months of military service, while also suffering from mental health issues, the house of Dior hired Marc Bohan as their new creative director. He remained at the house of Dior for the next 28 years.
Let’s compare some of his dresses during his time at Dior with the Patou design from 1956. Do you recognize this famous Dior dress?
This sleeveless dress has a wide belt with pleats at the waistline. You may not notice it from this angle, but the dress has considerable volume under the skirt. It is a Marc Bohan for Dior, worn by Elizabeth Taylor in 1961. I see similarities with this Patou line drawing.
Take a look at another Bohan for Dior dress and compare it to the Patou line drawing. I personally notice a similarity between the dramatic silhouette and cummerbund. Without the Patou jacket in the line drawing, the sleeveless dress silhouette would be very similar.
Below is another comparison. It appears that the house of Dior used the same technique of using horse-hair braid to create volume for this dress.
Here are more Dior dresses, where I see Bohan’s hand and distinctive line and silhouette.
Although every couture house has a strict design code to follow, the question in my mind remains: does the designer's new creations bear some of their distinctive elements from their experience at previous couture houses? Marc Bohan's time at Patou gave him exposure to the finest construction techniques that later appeared in many of his future designs for the house of Dior.
If anyone is a master at bringing their own distinctive style, while staying within the boundaries of strict house codes, Bohan is the King.
I will leave you with Elizabeth Taylor wearing her Bohan for Dior dress at the 1961 Academy Awards. Look at the incredible volume of the dress! Marc Bohan's time at Patou allowed him to hit the ground running when he was hired to lead Dior in 1960 to create iconic masterpieces that we still admire today.