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|
And here, a Christian Dior evening dress shares the podium with a Galliano fantasy.
"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|
|Yves St Laurent designs|
|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|
|Galliano - Kamata, 1997|
|Raf Simons - Look 44|
|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|