I love Dior. So, when the V&A Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition was announced I couldn’t wait to get my ticket. So much so that I speedily booked one ticket for myself and completely forgot about inviting someone to come with me. But who doesn’t love a day to themselves?
As I queue to get into the exhibition, huge fashion illustrations and a fascinating Christian Dior timeline are printed on the walls. Next to me is a very stylish lady, whose equally as engrossed in the timeline and we both hold the queue up whilst tilting our heads to read the last few lines. We both slowly make our way around the exhibition together, bumping into each other whilst watching every video and reading every single sign. One of my favourite things about a lone exhibition trip is seeing like-minded people as you walk around, knowing they’re just as in awe as you are.
The sold-out show is the biggest-ever display of Christian Dior’s work in the UK. Featuring 500 exquisitely-crafted items created throughout the years, including 200 rare haute couture pieces. I’m immediately transported through time as I enter the exhibition through the doors of Dior’s first store, 30 Avenue Montaigne. Greeting me is Dior’s first sketches and the first pieces from the debut collection in 1947, known as the ‘New Look’. A term coined by US Harper’s Bazaar magazine editor Carmel Snow. Centred in the room is one of the most recognisable pieces from the collection the “Bar” suit, a cream jacket with rounded shoulders, the most unbelievably tiny cinched in waist (a common trend throughout the exhibition) and a black full A-line skirt. Complete with the original sketch and photos of a 1940’s model wearing the ensemble. It is beautiful and as a designer, I was captivated by the original sketches and seeing how Dior’s initial ideas developed into a finished garment.
The show is split into the many worlds of Dior, with rooms created to be just a spectacular as the garments. Walking through Dior’s shop front I am surrounded by breath-taking haute couture dresses with a central gleaming bright glass plinth showcasing Princess Margaret’s embellished gold dress that Dior created for her 21st Birthday. Further into the world of Dior I wander through a Blenheim Palace room with moulded walls, windows out to the palace gardens, white columns and tiled floors, I could easily spend hours in this room just admiring the intricate embroidery and beadwork. Nex,t probably the most Instagramed room of all, thanks to the paper cut-out wisteria draped across the ceiling and walls, Dior’s family garden in Normandy. Featuring the beautiful hand-crafted embroidered flower dress worn by Natalie Portman in the Miss Dior fragrance Ad. As well as the original Miss Dior dress and fragrance created by Dior for his sister. This room is a homage to flowers and gardens and the important role they play in the influence of Dior designs.
Christian Dior himself headed up Dior for just 10 years before his passing in 1957. There have since been six creative directors to work for the house and the exhibition expertly shows off each style and the direction Dior has taken over the years. My all-time favourites, after of course Dior himself, are Raf Simons who for me really understood the Dior brand and created modern, slightly more simplified versions of Dior’s original aesthetic. Dior and I, a must watch documentary on Netflix, journeys through Raf Simons’ debut couture collection as creative director for Dior and gives a fascinating insight into his work and the talented seamstresses at the Dior atelier. I highly recommend a watch! The current head of the house, Maria Grazia Chiuri, contemporary feminist reinvention has made the Dior brand wearable (I’m still saving up!) by adding slogan printed T-shirts, an updated take on the original bar jacket, relaxed shapes and cool prints. The exhibition highlights her modern switch up of Dior.
The room I most admired at the exhibition was the toile room. A bright mirror covered room with floor to ceiling clad walls of original calico made designs. No colour, no embroidery, beads or prints just beautifully constructed garments. Complete with a fascinating video of the ateliers at work.
Finally, we reach the ballroom. A dazzling sparkling room full of 70 years of haute couture Dior. I must have walked around this room at least three times, there are that many dresses. Maria Grazia Chiuri’s incredible Christian Dior emblazoned silk tulle dress and fan from her SS18 haute couture collection waves you out of the exhibition and back into the bright light of the real world. The stylish lady I entered with gives me a smile and a nod as we leave.