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detail of Le Bal des Artistes

Delightful Dior

detail of Le Bal des Artistes
Detail of dress by John Galiano (b.1960)

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.

Inspired by historical costume
One of my favourite pieces was the ’18th century’ style jacket (right)
– a piece by Raf Simons (b.1968)

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‘.

The embroidery on this ‘Indian’ inspired gown was exquisite – but so difficult to photograph.


Though this ‘Egyptian’ theme gown was a little bizarre, I just loved the way the cloth was decorated. Though the original item is decorated with snake skin, I could imagine a similar effect with modern textile techniques.

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).

Paper flowers – showing the incredible skill/creativity of the V&A display team.

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).

Toiles on display

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.

From the Ball Room display

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.

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