Recently we were incredibly lucky to get to travel to London and visit the Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition held at the Victoria and Albert Museum, located in Knightsbridge. The exhibition traced the history of the designer from 1947 to the present day, showing the impact of one of the 20th century’s most influential couturiers. The exhibition also showed the impact of the fashion since Christian Dior had passed, and his relationship with Britain.
History of the designer and the brand
Christian Dior was a French fashion designer, best known as the founder of one of the world’s top fashion houses, also called Christian Dior, which is now owned by Groupe Arnault. His family had hoped he would become a diplomat; however, Dior was creative and artistic and couldn’t see himself in any other career than art. Therefore, Dior started by selling his fashion illustrations outside his house for 10 cents each, and ended up opening a small art gallery, selling art of the likes of Pablo Picasso. After a financial disaster in his family’s fertilizer business in 1929, Dior found he was at square one, so decided to find jobs at various fashion houses. After many years, a world war and military service, Dior founded his own fashion house, along with the backing from successful entrepreneur, Marcel Boussac.
Dior’s designs were extremely different than what was on offer to women at the time, as the World War II styles were seen as very masculine, with boxy, fabric conserving shapes, influenced by rations on fabric. His designs were revolutionary as they were more voluptuous and extenuated the woman’s natural curves and figure, which is what the women of the era were wanting. He was brilliant at creating silhouettes; as he’s quoted saying “I have designed flower women.”
To give the models curvaceous form, the fabrics he used were lined with boned, bustier style bodices, corsets and hip padding that made them flare out from the waist, creating that iconic hourglass look. There was some initial backlash to Dior’s designs as all the garments covered their legs, which was unusual because of the previous limitation of fabric, it was said Dior used too much fabric in the creation of his garments.
Amid the backlash, it was shown to the public how Dior’s designs, named the ‘New Look’, were more than just about fashion, and represented the end of the war and new beginnings. Society was used to wartime shortages, and women’s fashion was practical and basic to help them focus on the jobs they had to do. Dior himself had always hated wartime fashions, and ignored those who called his designs ‘a waste of fabric’. He even used twice the amount of fabric in his second collection.
After society started to understand the change, Dior’s designs were embraced fully. The opposition ceased as the wartime shortages ended. His designs revolutionised women’s dress and re-established Paris as the centre of the fashion world.
The exhibition itself was incredible, extremely well thought out and gave and insight into Dior’s impact, even from his short 10 years working in the fashion industry, and his tragic passing. It gave a run through of his time building his fashion house and then showed many amazing designs from the many creative directors who have been appointed after Dior. These included Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri. Each room was styled differently and showed a different theme, starting from the beginning of Dior to the present day. We definitely had trouble picking our favourites!
At the end of the exhibition there was a wonderful Dior themed gift shop packed full of books, tote bags and even some Dior jewellery on sale. We definitely recommend visiting the V & A Museum, even though the Dior exhibition is sold out, the museum always has amazing fashion exhibitions worth seeing!
To find out more about Christian Dior or the V & A, follow these links: