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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
But then close up it is clearly 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.