Sunday, 24 September 2017

The World of Dior

Last week I attended the National Gallery of Victoria's exhibition - The House of Dior - Seventy Years of Haute Couture. The exhibition was full of mind boggling eye candy and was extensive. We were there for almost 2 1/2 hours.

Hats off to the curators of this exhibition. They avoided the obvious "Let's put up these dresses in chronological order - from Christan Dior to present". As you enter, you are met by the famous Bar suit, or rather, a reproduction of this iconic outfit.

Tricky to photograph behind glass

Apparently, they forgot to take a photo in 1947 when this outfit became a hit, so they took it several years later. Notice that the model is wearing 1950s shoes rather that 1940s shoes.

These early Christian Dior pieces from the late 40s and 1950s are the stars of the show for me. Just so beautifully tailored -
Mirza, afternoon dress, 1951

And the evening gowns are spectacular.

Mexico - silk evening gown - 1953

Throughout the display, these classic Christian Dior gown are juxtaposed with modern Dior gowns, effectively showing how over the years the House of Dior has continued the original themes and influences which inspired Christian Dior, while still introducing modern elements and remaining relevant to the modern fashionista.

On the left, Journey of the Soul, "Bar jacket" and skirt, from the 2017 collection by the current Dior designer, Maria Grazia Chiuri, pays homage to Christian Dior's legacy, accompanied by a classic Christian Dior 50s gown on the right.

And here, a Christian Dior evening dress shares the podium with a Galliano fantasy.

The large salon with central staircase and mezzanine was a fabulous setting in which to showcase the House of Dior, then and now. Here, Christian Dior's '50s gowns mingled with works by later Dior designers. Thinking in music terms, they could have called the collection "Improvisation upon a theme by Christian Dior". Dior's key codes of influence echo down the decades since his reign - from The New Look to now - the line, the flower, and the eighteenth century. The emphasis on line is obvious in the early tailored pieces and the New Look with the shoulder, wasp waist and full skirt, but Dior continued to experiment with line throughout his brief career.

"The flower" blooms throughout the exhibition - old and new.

Maria Grazia Chiuri's gown of raffia, embroidered with silk flowers. Chiuri's current season, catwalk projected larger than life on the end wall, was a Midsummer Night's Dream of flowers and fairies.
And the eighteenth century? Galliano celebrates this with his typical theatricality .

Galliano's take on the 18th century motif
Christian Dior died suddenly in 1957 after ten years at the helm of the House of Dior. He was followed by Yves St Laurent, who ruled for four years, taking the House of Dior into the '60s. St Laurent's styles became perhaps a little too bohemian for the the House, and he was replaced by Marc Bohan, who led the House of Dior for 29 years, until 1989. In more recent years, Dior designers have been Gianfranco Ferre, John Galliano, Raf Simons and currently Maria Grazia Chiuri.

Yves St Laurent designs

According to the blurb on the display "In 1958 St Laurent introduced youthfulness and contemporaneity".
St Laurent's beaded Cascade dress, and sisters

From 1960 to 1989 Marc Bohan's rule was characterised by "sleek sophistication". I was not inspired by many of his gowns, but I did love the buttons on the back of this one.

Gianfranco Ferre followed, with what the NGV describes as his "lavish and sculptural design sensibility".

But for me, the stand out modern designer is John Galliano, with his fashion as art approach. Okay, some of his designs would not be wearable, but they are amazing. The NGV states that Galliano "revived theatricality and exquisite craftsmanship". He is certainly responsible for  the majority of the jaw droppers.

Galliano - Morticia Addams meets Carmen Miranda

I was standing there scratching my head and saying "Now, where have I seen this dress before?" when a passerby reminded me that of course it was famously worn to the Oscars in 1997 by Nicole Kidman.
Galliano reinvented Christian Dior's wasp waist look via Japan in his Origami collection. Pure Art.

Galliano - Samurai Girls (My name for it!)

We thought this was the end, but wait! There's more! A gallery of Dior shoes and hats beckoned to us.

And the final gallery - a showcase of some famous and inspirational evening gowns, including Miranda Kerr's wedding gown.

Miranda Kerr's wedding gown - Maria Grazia Chiuri

I was fascinated by this gown, probably because I have visited Masai villages in Tanzania and admired their beadwork. The bodice is made entirely of beads, in the Masai style.

Galliano - Kamata, 1997
Raf Simons succeeded Galliano in 2012. This Simons dress is made of tassels which are constructed by threading dried drops of paint onto threads!!

Raf Simons - Look 44
The current designer for Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri, has created a bevy of beauties and has certainly taken on Dior's floral theme in her current collection. The NGV says Chiuri's designs are characterised by her "languid and feminine delicacy".

Chiuri - Silk flowers on raffia

There was also a fascinating glimpse into the Atelier of the House of Dior, showing behind the scenes videos of the construction of this last gown of Chiuri's, painstakingly crafted from tiny silk and raffia flowers. There is also an interesting exhibition about Dior's gowns on display in Australia at David Jones in Sydney in 1948, the first time his collection travelled abroad.

I think the curators of this exhibition must have really enjoyed putting it all together, and also relished the opportunity to showcase the NGV's wonderful collection of shoes to complement the gowns. I certainly enjoyed looking at the shoes as well as the dresses. They did a wonderful job of telling the story of Dior - chronology, personalities, themes and crafting.
I have to take back my only quibble. Apparently, I can't blame the curators for this after all, but the milliner who worked with Galliano, Stephen Jones. An "evocative" cellophane bag on the model's head a la hat?? Really?

Galliano - Look 27, 2010-11
On until November 7th - Don't miss it, and Do try to go early and mid week to avoid the crowds.

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