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Dior. Ooh la la!

So did you see it???


I left it to the last minute (so me), joined the V&A (feeling very posh) and went twice!


It was so worth it.


I've been reading the Dior autobiography, Dior by Dior, to prepare, which I can heartily recommend.


 

I was surprised by a few things. I hadn't realised that Dior was so superstitious, relying heavily on fortune tellers. He also kept a lucky star, which he had nearly fallen over on the street in 1946, reading it as THE sign that it was time to start his own fashion house. And so Dior was born.


Christian Dior's Lucky Star from Dior Exhibition, V&A 2019
Christian Dior's Lucky Star from Dior Exhibition, V&A 2019

Dior broke the mold of austerity fashion and the 'make do and mend' of wartime, using bright colours and absolutely extravagant amounts of fabric. After all the war was over and a new and hopeful world was emerging from the ashes and Dior fashion was to be at the forefront.


For fashion, the only way was up, but that wasn't without issue. There were rumours of collaboration of designers with the occupying Nazis. Rationing was also in place and the self indulgence of Dior's designs produced some controversy.


The other detail I found out in the autobiography was Dior's belief that no outfit was complete with out a headpiece or hat. The accessories to Dior's designs were very carefully selected and matched.


That stood out, but was not specifically spelt out, for me in the exhibition. Each design was matched to a hat (though unfortunately not usually the one that it had been initially shown with).


One of the designs which, DID have it's original hat was the eponymous Bar Suit from Dior's first collection in February 1947 dubbed the 'New Look'. This caused such a stir, not just because of the extravagant use of fabric, but also because it was a whole new, figure flattering, glamorous silhouette!


Bar Suit and Hat. Dior Haute Couture Spring/Summer 1947. Suit in Wool crepe and Shantung silk and hat in taffetta and straw.
Bar Suit and Hat. Dior Haute Couture Spring/Summer 1947. Suit in Wool crepe and Shantung silk and hat in taffetta and straw.

More detail Bar Suit and Hat. Dior Haute Couture Spring/Summer 1947. Suit in Wool crepe and Shantung silk and hat in taffetta and straw.

It was great that the fabric, with which the garment was made, was described as it gave my fingers, which were itching to stroke the clothes, at least a texture to imagine!


I'm a bit of a fan of Outlander. Don't know if you've heard of it? They have amazing costumes (and an amazing costume designer Terri Dresbach!). On a recent series they took inspiration from Dior at this time to come up with a variation on these designs that would fit in with costumes in early 18th Century France. For more see Terri Dresbach's blog.


Terri Dresbach's version of the Bar Suit for Outlander Series 2
Terri Dresbach's version of the Bar Suit for Outlander Series 2

 

Any hooo, back to Dior!


The exhibition was laid out as beautifully as the garments, but even though I was expecting (or maybe hoping for) mostly classic original Christian Dior designs, garments from later Dior designers were also intermingled.


It was often hard to recognise the differences. The earlier designs did not look particularly dated.



Some later designers stood out. Galliano's pieces for example, being so much more avant garde!


As I progressed through the exhibition, I began to recognise some features, styles and silhouettes of the different Dior designers.


Coat Dress by John Galliano Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2005 in silk satin
Coat Dress by John Galliano Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2005 in silk satin

Coat Dress by John Galliano 2005 in silk satin with details in gilt thread, feathers and swarovski crystals
Close up Coat Dress by John Galliano Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2005 in silk satin



 

The other feature I associate with Dior, other than clean classic lines, is attention to detail. The detail of crystals, embroidery, feathers, thread work, and creation of new textiles, which is usually done in house.


This Raf Simons dress, for example, seems to be made up of thousands of guipure lace appliques applied to silk organza.


Raf Simons Dress Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2013. Silk organza and cotton guipure lace.
Raf Simons Off the Shoulder Dress Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2013. Silk organza and cotton guipure lace.

Raf Simons Dress Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2013. Silk organza and cotton guipure lace.
More detail - Raf Simons Off the Shoulder Dress Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2013. Silk organza and cotton guipure lace.

I also love the tricks used. Making something look like one thing, but then close up you see it is something else entirely.


Like this beautiful dress below. At first glance it is made up of flowers.


"Jardin Fleuri" (Garden in Bloom) Dress by Maria Grazia Chiuri Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2017
"Jardin Fleuri" (Garden in Bloom) Dress by Maria Grazia Chiuri Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2017

But then close up it is clearly feathers.

"Jardin Fleuri" (Garden in Bloom) Dress by Maria Grazia Chiuri Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2017 - when you look closely the flowers are made up by layers of cleverly arranged dyed feathers

 

Christian Dior was clearly enamoured with the UK, with fashion shows at the Savoy (with funds helping set up the UK's first Fashion Museum) and Blenheim Palace and built up a friendship with our glamorous and beautiful Princess Margaret, designing the dress for her 21st birthday.


Princess Margaret's bespoke Dior dress for her 21st birthday made from silk organza adorned with straw, mother of pearl and sequins
Princess Margaret's bespoke Dior dress for her 21st birthday in 1951 made from silk organza adorned with straw, mother of pearl and sequins