If someone asks me what truly made me fall in love with fashion, my answer would be: one exhibition of over 500 pieces and 200 haute couture gowns. It all began a few weeks ago as I, along with hundreds of other fashion-seeking women, descended upon the world’s leading museum of art and design. With our tailored jackets and classic handbags in arm, we anxiously gathered at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum for an event worthy of a trip across the pond.
We were all there for the highly anticipated Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition, an expansion on last year’s couture exhibition in Paris and an experience that promised some serious wow-factor. The presentation of rare couture garments, vintage perfume, accessories, fashion photography, illustrations, magazines, and personal possessions all on display certainly did not disappoint. It didn’t take long to understand why this particular event is so highly regarded.
From breathtakingly beautiful gowns to ethereal settings that inspire every fairytale dream, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams is a true celebration of glamour and fantasy. Visitors are taken on an evolutionary journey that traces one of the most influential couturiers and his six successors. The exhibit unfolds historically starting with Dior’s birth in 1905 to a wealthy French family in Normandy, but we are quickly reminded of just how much an Anglophile Dior truly was. He said so himself, “There is no other country, besides my own, whose way of life I like so much. I love English traditions, English politeness, English architecture. I even love English cooking.”
In 1947, Dior introduced his first collection and most famous invention. The “New Look” offered a new sense of style for the fashion-starved, post-World War II women. With rounded shoulders, a cinched waist, and a full skirt, it celebrated femininity. It was adored by British aristocrats, including the Royals. Of all the exquisite gowns on display, perhaps the most enchanting was Princess Margaret’s 21st birthday gown designed by Dior in 1951.
While Christian Dior had a great appreciation for the grandeur of British life, he was also deeply inspired by travel, history, and gardens. The entire exhibit brings this to life with 11 elaborately decorated sections. From roses cascading from the ceiling, a ballroom featuring a seven-minute reel of shooting stars, and lavish interiors that resemble the great houses of Britain, the entire layout is a sensory delight. It not only pays tribute to Dior’s lifetime, but it also spotlights the work of those who collaborated with the house including his six successors: Yves Saint-Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons, and Chiuri. Each brought a different interpretation yet successfully incorporated their own creative sensibilities while keeping in line with the “codes of Dior.” To this day, Dior’s designs are still reinterpreted again and again.
The Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition was more than a collection of perfectly placed dresses. It was a history lesson of sorts - an experience. I’ve always had a great appreciation for fashion, but it was through Dior’s brilliant vision, technical mastery, and admirable craftsmanship that proved me a true fashion enthusiast.
Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams is at the V&A until July 14 vam.ac.uk