I was lucky enough to get tickets for the Christian Dior exhibition at the V&A museum. In 1947, Christian Dior changed the face of fashion with his ‘New Look,’ which redefined the female silhouette. Coming from an Art background with a love for intricate and interesting architecture, I admired the use of architectural-like frames dedicated to the human body throughout all the designs on show. The black line drawn illustrations on the white walls leading to the exhibition began the championship of the Dior artistry and craftsmanship of haute couture; they were seamlessly simple, yet intricate and eye-catching.
I really could visualise what Dior meant by the quote, “Everything created by human hands expresses something – above all the personality of the creator.” (1954) The space portraying the work of the individual creative directors really displayed each of their distinctive styles and interpretations of the Dior brand and their values. Some designers, such as Marc Bohan’s, built on the classic Dior tailored aesthetic; whereas John Galliano’s were exuberant and really pushed the boundaries in terms of the expected for the fashion house. Galliano’s creations really stood out as being the anomalies of the whole exhibition.
When mum and I were discussing our favourite pieces from the exhibition, I seemed to be unintentionally drawn to the designs by Maria Grazia Chiuri, the current creative director at Dior. She celebrates feminism in a modest yet open way, understanding and representing the women of today. She also appears to acknowledge and build on the creativity and craftsmanship of the previous creative directors, as well as respecting the classic Dior elegant style. What I think works effortlessly is her mix of modern tailoring and ethereal romantic style to create beautiful evening gowns, keeping the designs youthful, yet true to the brand’s values of feminism.
A couple of my favourite pieces were the Mémoire D’hiver Dress (2017) and Brise Mémoires Ebsemble (2017). The hand-painted silk petals, caught between the layers of delicate fabric, looked stunning and I now appreciate the time and skill that went into making such a gown, as well as the narrative behind the flowers that the petals represent. I loved the simplicity which made the delicate individual flowers become the focal point and therefore a brilliant tribute to Dior’s love for his garden.
I adored the ball-gown space where the dresses where displayed in a regal mirrored circular silhouette, highlighted by white spotlights. I was able to see the dresses close up and therefore the finer details appeared magnified. I was in awe of the beaded, sequin numbers, just as much as the effortlessly minimal designs made of silk. Anyone wearing any of these gowns would feel as if they were in a dream; I could imagine it would be a real fairy tale experience.
The toiles also fascinated me. As consumers, the finished garment is the focal point and all that can be visualised, however seeing a room full of mock-up garments really brought home to me the stages that a design goes through when being ‘brought to life.’ I think I was most surprised by the pen and pencil marks on the stark neutral fabric.
I came away with a deeper understanding of Christian Dior himself, with specific regard to how he changed fashion history. The Dior signature style has developed and evolved over the years, however the handmade attention to detail remains constant, as well as the extraordinary craft and skill that goes into every garment.