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  • Christian Dior with model Lucky, circa 1955. Courtesy of Christian Dior _zip_magazine
  • V&A_Christian Dior Designer of Dreams exhibition_Atelier section (c) ADRIEN DIRAN
  • Christian Dior by Maria Grazia Chiuri (b.1964), Dress, Haute Couture, SpringSummer 2018. Photo (c) Laziz Hamani. Laziz Hamani. Dior Héritage collection, Paris
  • Sketch by Christian Dior for model Oxford, Spring-Summer 1947 Haute Couture collection © Christian Dior
Christian Dior with model Lucky, circa 1955 Courtesy of Christian Dior.
V&A Christian Dior Designer of Dreams exhibition Atelier section (c) ADRIEN DIRAND.
Christian Dior by Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dress, Haute Couture, SpringSummer 2018. Photo (c) Laziz Hamani. Dior Héritage collection, Paris.
Sketch by Christian Dior for model Oxford, Spring-Summer 1947 Haute Couture collection © Christian Dior.

    Christian Dior: Designer Of Dreams at the V&A

    10 July 2019

    ‘Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams’ at the V&A, London

    London, By Anna Herring @anna.herring

    An overwhelming spectacle, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams is the must see London exhibition of 2019 being held at the Victoria and Albert museum in London until September 1 2019. It covers the astounding history of the fashion house of Dior.

    The exhibition begins at the beginning, of course, the beginning of Dior and his infamous ‘New Look’, as coined by Carmel Snow, the Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar at the time. With its vast skirts, structured bodices and wasp-waists the New Look sent waves through the post-war fashion industry of 1947. The Bar Suit, the iconic black and white two-piece suit, has become the emblem of the New Look and a hallmark for the house of Dior. It continues to be a source of inspiration for many of Dior’s succeeding Creative Directors and confirms the New Look’s enduring legacy. In confirmation of the central importance of the New Look to the Dior legend, exhibition viewers are greeted with one of the original Bar Suits - acquired by the V&A in 1960 - and are then led through the compelling story of how the DNA of the New Look has been adapted and incorporated in the collections of succeeding Creative Directors.

    A Dior dress is unmistakable. This is in part due to the silhouette, and as highlighted in the exhibition, the silhouette of a design and emphasis on feminine curves is one of the house of Dior’s defining characteristics. The Dior Line section of the exhibition is devoted to showing viewers the history of the Dior silhouette and its evolution through the decades, with an emphasis on the classic 1950s dresses that are so representative of The Dior Line. The Dior Line demonstrates that what makes Designer of Dreams so enthralling and exciting is that each of the room interiors has been designed and presented to reflect the core elements of the different trademarks of Dior and Dior designs.

    The exhibition emphasises the story of Dior in Britain and Christian Dior’s personal relationship with Britain, a key element in the genesis of the house. One of the most truly memorable parts of this exhibition, and there are many, is Princess Margaret’s 21st birthday dress - Cecil Beaton captured the iconic image of the Princess in the dress for her official birthday portrait. Princess Margaret was a huge fan of Dior and his designs, and the relationship between the two would go onto last Dior’s lifetime and he was delighted to be able to dress not just Margaret, but other debutantes of English high society. Dior presented many of his collections in Britain but the most famous one is undoubtedly his couture show at Blenheim Palace (the birthplace of Winston Churchill) in 1954. 

    Dior’s designs paid homage to his love for flowers and gardening, both quintessential elements in his designs. Miss Dior, the iconic Eau de Parfum is centred on representing Dior’s passion for flowers and maintains its huge success today as it did when it launched in the 1950s. The use of the garden as a theme for collections has been used by many of the succeeding creative directors of Dior. The room dedicated to the garden and Dior is mesmerising and truly transports the viewer to a whimsical, fantastic space.

    The detail and artistry that makes up a Dior dress is due to the talent and skill of the ateliers - another focal point of the exhibition. A white, architectural room showcases the toiles created by the seamstresses prior to the creation of the of the couture garment. As the exhibition emphasises haute couture demands that garments must be made almost entirely by hand and can take hundreds of hours to complete. The toiles allow for the seamstresses to trial the construction, fit and shape of the garment and allow for adjustments to be made. Toiles are created from simple white cotton fabric often prior to the actual fabric of the design and the embellishments being chosen. Toiles allow for the seamstresses to perfect the tailoring of a design before its creation - a toile is a prototype as such.

    Dior’s love for costume would act as inspiration for many of the ballgowns he designed over the course of his career. A Dior ballgown revels in extravagance, and is created and embellished with the most luxurious fabrics and materials. In parallel with the New Look, which created the break from the austerity of wartime, his ballgowns are staggeringly decadent and glamorous in the extreme. This makes a Dior ballgown unique in its design, and Dior’s successors continue to draw upon elements of the fantastical in their own creations, continuing the Dior tradition of glamour and decadence. The collection of ballgowns, and all the other designs, on show is spectacular.

    What makes the exhibition so particularly captivating are the set designs and the use of music to create a completely immersive experience into the world of Dior. Every time I entered a new room I was astounded by not just the designs but the exhibition that the curators had created, and how the the history of the house of Dior is is exhibited in such a beguiling manner, a manner which does not overwhelm the designs, but perfectly compliments them. The detail and artistry that creates a Dior couture dress is astounding, and cemented my opinion that fashion and couture fashion, in particular, is art. 

    Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams is an astounding exhibition and one that I will remember forever. The continuity between the set design of the different rooms and the designs on show created an electric atmosphere, one that almost gave me shivers, and as I progressed through the exhibition I continued to be amazed by the beauty of the garments. The V&A has managed to construct another spectacular exhibition and one that honestly represents and manages to capture the essence of Dior as a fashion house. 

    Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams is at the V&A from 2 February – 1 September 2019



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