After their ground-breaking exhibition “Alexander McQueen-Savage Beauty,” the Victoria & Albert Museum in London had a lot to live up to.
Christian Dior’s genius and his legacy are made very clear, and his influence on what
women wear today is simply enormous. As with the McQueen show, the exhibition designed by Nathalie Crinière, is genius in itself. The visitor is taking through a succession of spaces, which place the fabulous clothes in context using both innovative lighting and music.
We begin with Dior’s background, born in a Normandy seaside town to wealthy parents. His progression through art and fashion-apprenticeship led to his first ground-breaking show in 1947. This was perhaps the major event in the last hundred years of fashion. Dior’s new look swept away post-war conditions, and changed the female line forever.
Dior in Britain explores the designer’s very strong relationship with this country, which I was
unaware of. England inspired his work, and was very influential. “I love English traditions, English politeness, English architecture,” he once noted. The Princess Margaret dress, familiar to viewers of The Crown, is quite breath-taking.
It is in the sections Travels and Designers for Dior that we see his daring experimentalism, and the extent to which his successors at Dior followed his inspiration. Christian Dior himself sadly died at the top of his game, after just ten years of genius. But goodness, what disciples he had – Yves Saint Laurent, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano. Themes such as his stunning Egyptian Concept or Bar Look are repeated again, and again.
These men designed for women, but a very wonderful aspect of this show is that the role of the
hundreds of exceptionally skilled women they depended on are not forgotten — primarily the seamstresses and craftswomen behind the scenes. We see what fashion designers call their “voiles,” the mock ups in white cloth, in a stunning all white room presented as The Ateliers. And in The Garden, we appreciate just how skilled their sewing was.
Dior loved gardens, a Norman tradition in his roots. The thousands of flowers embroidered, stitched and sewn by these longsuffering artists testify to it. Dior also took accessories to a whole new level. In Diorama, we see his design eye turned to everything from perfume bottles to lipsticks. The classic lipstick Rouge Dior that was launched in 1953, was a beauty manifesto upon its release. The variety of hats, shoes, bags, costume jewellery was astonishing. Not to mention, his collaboration with the likes of Swarovski (who sponsored the show) created art in itself.
What could they do for a finale? Well in Ballroom, the installation consisted of a mesmerizing light show, where the Dior ball gowns come to life. In a country house style ballroom we are taken through the day, as the lighting changes to showcase the dresses many differing aspects. This was more than a fashion show. It is a tour de force. Dior’s legacy is all around us – just take a look at echoes of his work in this year’s London Fashion Week. Tickets are available on the day of, and members can get in free. Every woman in London should fight for a ticket — Maybe even kill for one, as it’s an installation to truly be remembered and mesmerized by.
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