By  on May 17, 2005

GRANVILLE, France — LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton chief Bernard Arnault watched the sun slice through the storm clouds just as he arrived here Saturday to inaugurate an exhibit honoring the 100th anniversary of the birth of Christian Dior.

For the incredibly superstitious Dior, who was known to consult his tarot card reader before every collection, the breaking sun would have been just the auspicious turn required after a violent morning downpour on this small Normandy seaside town where he was born.

Dior's family house here is now a museum devoted to the memory of the man who invented the New Look and revolutionized post-war Paris fashion.

His centenary has given the museum a reason to put on its biggest and most ambitious show to date: "Christian Dior, Homme du Siecle," or "Man of the Century." It is meant to draw parallels between the influences of Dior's youth here, his artistic proclivities as a young gallery owner in Paris and his fashion career, which began in 1947 when he founded his house on the Avenue Montaigne.

Several dozen of Dior's most recognizable dresses are juxtaposed alongside paintings of artists he knew or admired, from Christian Berard and Balthus to Emilio Terry and Andre Derain.

A selection of Dior's personal effects, including his lucky star and the daily diary he kept in 1957, the year he died of a heart attack after going to a spa in Italy to lose weight, are spotlighted.

And there are bottles of Dior perfume dating back to the designer's first fragrance, Miss Dior, as well as confections created by his successors, from Yves Saint Laurent, who catapulted to fame when, at 21, he succeeded the great couturier, to John Galliano, who guides the house today.

But it is the quaint pink stucco belle epoque house and the contiguous ambling garden, much of which Dior designed, that best bring to life other facets of his aesthetic leanings and superstitions.

Each of his collections had a "Granville" model. And in every show at least one model wore his favorite flower, the lily of the valley, which is planted abundantly in the garden in Granville.

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