Working on my life’s journey in maps of all the places I have lived, there’s far more of the early years as my mother dearly loved a move. Her idea of a fun Sunday afternoon trip out was looking round building site, before health and safety made builders screen them off. I think there will be more to come as I map all the walks I used to do with my friend Libby.
Janette has written such a descriptive passage about our trip to the Christian Dior exhibition that she hasn’t left much for me to mention. Therefore, I shall have to elaborate on the rooms which interested me the most.
At the beginning of the exhibition, amongst the photographs of the young Dior with his family, friends and his colleagues at the first Paris Fashion House, was a colourful seed catalogue dated 1905. This was placed here to show how influential gardens were to some of Dior’s designs which we saw in one of the rooms that took my breath away as we entered it. Here the ceiling, walls, and occasionally floor, was decked out with paper flowers, which must have taken hours, not only to display, but make in the first place. White, pale blue and green l.e.d. lighting placed amongst the flowers enhanced the display. This was called the Garden Room and many of the outfits were obviously inspired by plants.
Lily of the Valley was said to have been one of Christian Dior’s favourite flowers and the floor around the dress of that name was festooned with paper examples of the growing plant.
The other room which particularly appealed to me showed the work of the Ateliers. This was set out a little like that in the Alexander McQueen exhibition, in that case entitled “The Cabinet of Curiosities”, where the items were shown in staging which reached right up to the ceiling. In the Dior exhibition the toile were displayed in compartments which the skilful placement of mirrors made to appear to reach the ceiling. These were the first patterns for the clothes, cut from cotton, indicating where the seams, darts etc. were required to shape the garment.
I particularly loved this example of the Ateliers’ work which, in its final form, was to have embroidery on the collar and pockets. That design was drawn on paper and tacked into position on the garment.
In the room depicting how different world cultures had influenced the designers, I couldn’t resist snapping this picture of an outfit by Maria Grazia Chiuri, the latest director at Dior, made for the Spring Collection 2019.
I was drawn to all the hand-stitching which made up the design around the lower part of the skirt (right).
As we left the Ateliers room we passed into a dark gallery which on one side displayed magazine covers bearing images of models in Dior gowns but opposite it was the Diorama.
This display was arranged in coloured sections, like a rainbow, beginning with silver and progressing through to midnight blue. Each section held a full-sized piece of clothing surrounded by shoes, handbags, hats and doll-sized examples of dresses or coats as well as decoupaged illustrations of the collection. In the red area can be seen the outfit which I had pictured in the Ateliers gallery. Brilliant!
As anyone who knows Janette and I would rightly say, we are not “fashionistas”, but for both of us, this exhibition far exceeded expectations and I would urge you to check out the V&A website, if you’re unable to visit before the end of the month, to see these stunning images of “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams”.
I may have left visiting ‘Christian Dior: Designers of Dreams’ at the V&A Museum to the last few weeks, but for me the timing was absolutely perfect. With no E.A.S.T deadlines, and approval from my supervisor that my university research was coming together well, planning a day off with a good friend (and fellow E.A.S.Tie, Susan) was just perfect. This was not an exhibition where I needed to make notes; initially I was not even going to get my camera out. Instead I decided I could just relax and admire the work on display. And event though we had it on good authority (from our group mentor, Anthea) that this was an exhibition well worth seeing, it definitely exceeded my expectations.
The display began with an introduction to Christian Dior himself, and the ‘New Look’ he first became famous for. Surrounding his classic version were ‘updates’ by the five other artistic directors that came after him – Yves Saint-Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferro, Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri. All through the display there was a combination of work from these six designers – sharing similar themes but often in very different ways. Yet despite their differences, elements of the original Christian Dior ‘style’ could often still be seen.
One of the first sections we came to was a selection of work inspired by history (see above) – in particular several items inspired by eighteenth-century court dress. I have written a little more about the ‘history’ display of this exhibition in my own personal blog, ‘Artistic Threads‘.
Other areas focused on themes such as ‘travel’ (see above) and ‘nature’ (or was it ‘floral’?). This second room, as well as some stunning dresses, included a backdrop of the most amazing paper flowers (see below).
One of the highlights was the diorama. A display filled with a rainbow of elements – accessories (hats, shoes, jewellery) and related aspects of design – fashion illustration and miniature versions of the gowns – moving seamlessly from one colour palette to another.
Another room focused on the creation of the garments – almost entirely in white this room was a cabinet of toiles (see below).
The display ended with the most fantastic ball room. Not only a room full of the most fantastic gowns and accessories, but again the way everything was displayed added an extra special dimension. Using lighting techniques, film, and scent no photograph can do this particular room justice. I have included just a couple of items from the display below.
This was an exhibition that was well worth waiting for. As well as there being some absolutely beautiful garments on display, I felt it also gave an real insight into haute couture and the work involved in putting together a collection. Many of the pieces had the most exquisite decoration – embroidery and beadwork was much in evidence. It may have Dior’s name on the door, but the creative team work was much in evidence.
However for me, I came away not just with admiration for the House of Dior and their amazing work, but also the people at the V&A Museum – their creative team should also be applauded for putting together a really interesting, beautiful and inspiring display.