Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams – V & A Museum, London

‘There is no other country in the world, besides my own, whose way of life I like so much. I love English traditions, English politeness, English architecture. I even love English cooking.’

– Christian Dior –

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams is the V&A’s biggest fashion exhibition since Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty in 2015. The exhibition covers the period from 1947 right through to the present day, and traces the history and impact of one of the 20th century’s most influential couturiers, and the six artistic directors who have succeeded him, to explore the enduring influence of the fashion house.

Based on the major exhibition Christian Dior: Couturier du Rêve, organised by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, the exhibition is reimagined here for the V&A. A brand-new section explores, for the first time, the designer’s fascination with British culture. Dior admired the grandeur of the great houses and gardens of Britain, as well as British-designed ocean liners, including the Queen Mary. He also had a preference for Savile Row suits. His first UK fashion show took place at London’s Savoy Hotel, and in 1952 he established Christian Dior London.

Drawn from the extensive Dior Archives, the exhibition presents over 500 objects, with over 200 rare Haute Couture garments shown alongside accessories, fashion photography, film, vintage perfume, original make-up, illustrations, magazines, and Christian Dior’s personal possessions.

The exhibition highlights Christian Dior’s total design vision that defined the House of Dior’s aesthetic, and reveals the sources of inspiration which covered everything from horticulture to global travel. Flowers are a constant, and are emblematic of the Couture House that have inspired silhouettes, embroidery and prints, including the launch of Miss Dior in 1947, the first floral fragrance created alongside the very first show. From early childhood Christian Dior was fascinated by gardens. He enjoyed sketching his dresses outside in the garden and flowers were a continual inspiration. His New Look was inspired by the shape of an inverted flower, and the garments were first modelled against a backdrop of large floral arrangements by Parisian florist, Lachaume. Flowers abound in Dior’s work; from single flower decorations to abundant prints and intricate embroideries. There are also numerous references to the 18th century in lavish designs influenced greatly by the court of Versailles and the decor of that period.

Following on from Dior, it is fascinating to see the unique differences in the work of the artistic directors who followed in Dior’s footsteps. From the daring designs of Yves Saint Laurent to the rational style of Marc Bohan, the flamboyance of Gianfranco Ferré, the exuberance of John Galliano, the minimalism of Raf Simons, and Maria Grazia Chiuri’s feminist vision of fashion, the exhibition shows how each successive artistic director has stayed true to Dior’s vision of Haute Couture, while bringing their own creative sensibilities to the House.

Dior’s evening dresses and ballgowns draw on his love of historic costume. He especially loved designing clothes that would be worn at balls and fancy dress parties. His extravagant creations combined skilful draping, intricate embroidery and magnificent embellishment with the most luxurious of materials. Dior explained ‘evening clothes are the most glamorous and fascinating things a woman can have as the evening is the time you can escape from the realities of life’.

The ateliers are the heart of Dior. It is in these workrooms that the seamstresses, or petites mains, turn ideas into exquisite haute couture garments. The tradition of haute couture demands that garments are almost entirely made by hand, using both traditional and modern techniques, often taking hundreds of hours to create. Once a design was selected, it was taken to ateliers to be turned into a toile. This prototype garment, usually made in cotton fabric, allowed for the fit, construction and shape of the design to be checked. Once a toile was satisfactorily adjusted, fabric and embellishments were chosen, and the garment could be made, fit to a model and shown.

Exquisite on so many levels, and a fitting, fascinating tribute to the House of Dior.

Christian Dior; Designer of Dreams has been extended to 1 September 2019 due to popular demand.

For further information please visit: www.vam.ac.uk

 

Leave a Reply