Beautiful ball gowns displayed in the 'Dior Ballroom'Instagram: dior

The history of haute couture is having a moment. Ever since the huge popularity of the ‘Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty’ exhibition in 2011, the Museum of Modern Art’s beautifully curated fashion-orientated exhibitions have attracted a new clientele to museums, highlighting the prominence of fashion in popular culture today. Last week we saw Les Musées des Arts Décoratifs in Paris open the latest instalment: ‘Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams’. Spread over 3,000 square metres, the exhibition coincides with the 70th anniversary of Dior’s inaugural designs and takes us through the iconic decades of the fashion house. The show is intermingled with designs from all of the creative directors who followed after Dior’s death in 1957: Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and the current, first female, creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri.

“Femininity at its finest, romanticism overlapped with modernity, flawless sartorial elegance: the designs of Dior truly celebrate the beauty of the female figure.”

From the initial years of the ‘New Look’ which favoured structured and classical renaissance-style shapes, to the eccentricity of the Japanese inspired Galliano years to the new post-feminist designs of Maria Grazia Chiuri, the exhibition goes through Dior’s life hitherto magnificently, decorated and embellished throughout with Renaissance paintings and surrealist sculptures. As we sift through the past 70 years of Dior, we are transported into a sartorial and decadent world, which allows us to peak inside the creative mind of Christian Dior, truly making him a designer of dreams.

Christian Dior was a pioneer in the best way possible. This is demonstrated through the entrance to the exhibition, in which guests are greeted with a classical gown dating back to 1947, the year where it all began. A structured, bone-line bustier corset, with a pleated skirt heavy in fabric best represents Dior’s ‘New Look’ that reclaimed the power of Paris as a fashion capital. This silhouette brought worldwide acclaim and ushered a new, post-war ideal of hourglass femininity. The curvaceous form of his dresses were accented by corsets, hip padding, petticoats and wasp-waists that gave way to flared and pleated midi skirts.

An outfit from the Dior Spring/Summer Ready to Wear collection, when Raf Simons was creative director Instagram: dior

This ‘New Look’ attracted a prominent clientele, from the bright lights of Hollywood to the gilded castles of the European Aristocracy. This glamorous regality that Dior is so often credited is picked up on in the exhibition. The large final gallery, coined the ‘Dior Ballroom’, features the most famous silver-screen and star-studded Dior moments throughout history. Gowns are tiered on top of one another like opulent cake layers in a huge display of hedonistic couture where projected stars twinkle over the gowns. It is almost as if one is transported back to the Golden Age of cinema, as the stars create the illusion of bulbs flashing on a Hollywood Red Carpet. Amongst the dresses we see Elizabeth Taylor’s 1961 Academy Awards dress and Galliano’s haute couture. There is no doubt that with the name of Dior a legacy of regal aristocracy and Hollywood royalty appears: Marlene Dietrich, Princess Grace of Monaco, Eva Peron, Jackie Kennedy, Princess Margaret of Great Britain. This old-school continental glamour epitomised the classical elegance that flavoured Dior’s work and image.

Since becoming creative director of Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri has overseen the creation of fairytale-worthy dresses, just like this one.Instagram: dior

Personal creative vision is extremely evident in the exhibition as we see the dramatisation of the Galliano years. This man singlehandedly changed the concept of the catwalk, modernising it and turning it into a spectacle in itself. Sparks of colour are dotted throughout the exhibition, highlighting the eccentricity of Galliano’s work. We see pops of clementine orange, emerald green and rapeseed yellow which stand out in stark contrast to the pastel-beaded hues of Dior’s own work. Raf Simons’ understated simplicity takes us back to the original Christian Dior days, with 3D organza floral gowns in the classical boned shapes, which invoke memories of Simons’ Spring 2016 show in which he completely covered the Louvre in a mountain of 400,000 delphinium flowers. And finally, there is the whimsical and fairytale-like beauty of Maria Grazia Chiuri’s designs. A previous creative director of Valentino, her collections thus far have been inspired by tulle and barely-there fabric embroidered with laced flowers and stitched words, which have added an element of sensuality to the Dior woman. However, again we see the direction steered from Christian Dior, as through the tulle wired bodices appear, a tribute to the iconic shapes that Dior pioneered.

The exhibition takes us on a Dior dream throughout time. Femininity at its finest, romanticism overlapped with modernity, flawless sartorial elegance: the designs of Dior truly celebrate the beauty of the female figure. The designs of Christian Dior are a dream, but one that awakens the senses and sparks creativity and sensuality. The exhibition truly encapsulates how timeless Dior has become: 70 years of understated, delicate and sartorial elegance, and 70 more will ensue I am sure

Sponsored links