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Exploring the Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition at London’s iconic V&A Museum is like stepping into one of the finest walk-in wardrobes. The largest and most comprehensive Dior exhibition in the UK explores the origins of the legendary couturier, his first collection in 1947 and designs from his successors. Word of warning: if you’re not already in love with Christian Dior, you will be with this exhibition.
It’s no secret that he’s one of the best-loved designers of the 20th century. Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams looks at his inspirations and the designers that have taken over since his death in 1957.
The exhibition is based on the Musée des Art Décoratif’s Christian Dior: Couturier du Rêve showing in Paris. This Christian Dior exhibition at the V&A also celebrates his interest in British culture, country houses and British-designed ocean liners. Over 200 rare haute couture, accessories, film, photography, vintage perfume, illustrations and Christian Dior’s personal possessions make up the 500 objects on display from Dior archives.
The exhibition consists of 11 sections, starting with Christian Dior. This details Christian Dior’s biography including his role as designer for Robert Piguet, to the launch of the House of Dior in Paris in 1946.
The New Look area begins with Dior’s iconic Bar Suit from his revolutionary debut collection which offered an alternative to masculine womenswear. In The Dior Line, you’ll find ten stunning outfits from Dior’s time at the fashion house between 1947 to 1957.
‘I think of my work as ephemeral architecture, dedicated to the beauty of the female body.’ Christian Dior 1957
Dior in Britain showcases Dior’s collaborations with British manufacturers. Visitors can learn more about his knitwear with Lyle & Scott and costume jewellery with Mitchel Maer. The stunning dress Princess Margaret wore for her 21st birthday is a perfect example of elegant Dior style.
As someone who’s inspired by Marie Antoinette, I was delighted with the Historicism section, which uncovers Dior’s obsession with 18th century style. Discover tightly waisted couture dresses and coats in macaron shades. There’s also a selection of glamorous white dresses housed in a stand based on the Temple of Love at Versailles, built for Marie Antoinette in 1778.
Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams examines how cultures and traditions from other countries continue to inspire the House of Dior. Travel showcases outfits inspired by Mexico, Egypt, China, Japan while The Garden is filled with dresses emblazoned with blossoms inspired by flowers and gardens. Think tulle skirts shaped like bouquets and elegant nipped in waists. The ‘Les Invasions’ paper garden installation by Wanda Barcelona adds a special touch.
Designers for Dior celebrates Dior’s successors such as Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Cohan, John Galliano and Raf Simons. The John Galliano Dior years are one of my favourite fashion eras thanks to bold colours and voluminous shapes. Creations from Dior’s current haute couture artistic director, Maria Grazia Chiuri are also on show. Remember the iconic ‘We should all be feminists’ ready-to-wear outfit that stormed the spring/summer 2017 catwalks? That’s part of the entrance display.
The Ateliers area acknowledges the dedication and commitment from hardworking seamstresses running the ateliers to turn ideas into finalised creations. Diorama is an inspiring collection of magazines featuring Dior designs, luxurious footwear, illustrations, perfume bottles and miniature dresses.
The exhibition concludes with The Ballroom. An elaborately decorated room with a constellation ceiling display, it showcases dramatic ball gowns made with tulle, sequins, jewels and feathers.
I’m so pleased I booked tickets to see the Dior exhibition at the V&A. Trust me, it’s a total feast for the eyes. I highly recommend it!
Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, supported by Swarovski, with further support from American Express is at the V&A from 2ndFebruary – 14thJuly 2019. Tickets start at £20.
Main image: Royal Portrait of Princess Margaret on her 21st birthday Photograph by Cecil Beaton (1904–1980). © Victoria and Albert Museum, London