A precious glimpse into the grand world of couture can be summed up in one word – magnifique! Where’s that emoji with the love heart eyes?
Fortunate to be gifted two tickets to the House of Dior Exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, my mother and I explored the history and brilliance of Dior and stayed at the Langham one weekend in Melbourne. Such a treat.
Despite making a conscious effort to turn up early the queues were enormous – great minds think alike.
Needless to say, the NGV handled the event like a pro. The exhibition was super organised and well laid out which means we had a chance to see all the amazing garments.
The History of Dior
Christian Dior was born in Granville on the seaside coast of Normandy in 1905. A quintessential styler and innovator of Haute Couture fashion in the in the late 40’s and 50’s, Dior’s work redefined the standards of class and elegance.
In Dior’s younger days, the French courtier’s family had grand expectations, and hoped he would become a diplomat… he became a designer instead, and started his journey by selling his fashion sketches outside his house for 10 cents each – humble beginnings.
Decades later, Dior’s legacy lives on as one of the world’s most influential and stunning Fashion Houses. His designs are timeless, having endured 6 successive designers after his sudden death in 1957.
The New Look
Setting the post war avant garden trend, Dior’s forward thinking led women to embrace fuller skirts, defined waists and bold shoulders. A look which curated the female silhouette, one of his greatest and most iconic works is The Bar Suit, crafted from silk from his Spring/Summer collection in 1947.
Dior was renowned for his opulent ball and cocktail gowns. During the Eighteenth Century he collected furniture and decorative arts which inspired him to adorn his garments with detailed embroidery and striking embellishments. Fabrics included the use of silk, crepe and cotton in a myriad of patterns and textures, often drawing from scrolling prints and ornamental forms of the Rococo.
A collection must be built up with a fairly small number of ideas – a dozen at most. One has to know how to vary them…assert them, enforce them. From these ten or twelve ideas the whole collection is constructed
Incorporating floral embroidery and patterns was a core motif in Dior’s earlier works. On ball gowns and cocktail dresses alike, lace and delicate floral ornaments created an sense of ethereal – a floating garden if you like.
His successive designer’s followed, with John Galliano dedicating an entire collection to to the flowers that were a key design source for the founder.
The heart of high fashion is Haute Couture – handcrafted, bespoke and ambitious. The designs are works of art, with hundreds of hours dedicated to the creation of a single garment. The Atelier (which is French for ‘workshop’ or ‘studio’) is where the magic happens.
The House of Dior was established in 1946 and since then has maintained it’s specialist ateliers to execute the creation of its pieces. Divided into two streams: flou (soft dressmaking) and tailleur (tailoring), each area falls under the supervision of a premiere (head). With years of experience, inspiration and creativity, the workrooms are home to exceptional craftsmanship.
After Dior’s sudden death in 1957, the fate of the leading fashion House was under considerable speculation. The six esteemed designers that followed Dior’s departure included a young Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and Maria-Grazia Chiuri.
MARC BOHAN was the head designer for the House of Dior for twenty-nine years producing fifty-seven haute couture collections and was Dior’s second successor after replacing Yves Saint Laurent as creative director. His work reflected couture’s modern mood throughout the 1960’s through crisp styling and and innovative suiting.
In 1989, Bohan was replaced by GIOANFRANCO FERRE who took over the creative direction of the House of Dior. One of his most notable works he created in 1996 was the stunning Bangalore, evening suit from the Passion Indienne (Indian Passion) Autumn/Winter collection. Consisting of silk jacquard with gold thread and embroidery – the detail is extraordinary.
JOHN GALLIANO was perhaps the most talented and controversial designers of the House of Dior. He was famous for his dramatic structural silhouettes combined with precise origami style folds. His complex designs were always framed by Dior’s signature wasp-waist and exaggerated shoulders. In 2011 a week before Paris Fashion week, Dior announced Galliano’s dismissal as a result of his anti-semitic outburst in Parisian bar.
RAFF SIMMONS took over from Galliano after his departure in 2011. The Belgian fashion designers’ Spring/Summer 2015 was considered one of his most original and innovative. Using a combination of lace, plastic, sequins and colour as well as alternating between gowns, miniskirts and bodysuits, Simons’ vision was unmatched. Dior’s revenue grew upwards of 60% as he revived Dior’s legacy.
Dior and I follows Raf Simmons’ journey as he had just 8 weeks to design and create his first collection. It’s easy to see why these gowns cost as much as they do!
As the 6th and current artistic director of Dior – MARIA-GRAZIA CHIURI’S candid approach to Haute Couture is refreshing:
Luxury can also be a T-shirt, when it is made with expertise and the best cut. Luxury is not only clothes with price but also value and the human touch. Luxury is when you can feel the creativity
Similar to Dior’s successive designers, she too had a strong creative direction. The use of zodiac motifs were a key design piece for her opening collection.
The well-dressed woman will possess an outfit for every occasion; by the word “outfit” I mean everything that goes to make up perfection, planned and thought through to the last detail, from the fur coat to the shoes
The final room of the exhibition was a whimsical display of dramatic evening gowns. Throughout the seventy-year rich history of the House of Dior, a selection of floor length garments sums up Dior’s presence in the fashion world. Created from only the finest fabrics: velvet, brocade, satin, taffeta, sequins, tulle and lace – Dior’s legacy continues to live on as one of the most iconic fashion Houses.
After all, a grand first impression never goes out of vogue.