Firstly, I must extend a heartfelt thank you to my Facebook friends who recommended the ‘Christian Dior: Designer of
Dreams’ exhibition at the Musée des Art Decoratifs. I am so glad I took their advice. As the exhibition was due to end in January, I organised a short city break to Paris during the Christmas holidays.
I was excited just to visit Paris again. Its winter cloak exuded an entirely different atmosphere that I hadn’t experienced before, a kind of beautiful melancholy. Unfortunately, the accompanying wet and windy weather was not ideal for exploring on foot. Whilst I agree with Audrey Hepburn’s character Sabrina that “Paris is always a good idea”, I think that next time I’ll wait for the warmer months. Paris is even more charming in the sunshine.
Again, I was struck by the architectural grandeur of the Eiffel Tower. What a wonder of human creation. It’s difficult to believe that it was originally built as a temporary structure for the 1889 World’s Fair. Can you imagine the Paris skyline without its magnificent presence?
Designer of Dreams Exhibition
This exhibition was created to celebrate 70 years of the House of Dior and is the biggest Dior exhibition ever curated. It is reported that there were over 700,000 visitors during its six month run. The downside of this huge popularity was the four hour long queue. But I can honestly say that it was worth the freezing, wet wait to experience the beauty inside.
The exhibition combined autobiographical artefacts from Christian Dior’s life and the work of all six desi
gners who have held the coveted role of Creative Director since Dior’s death in 1957. It moves through his creative life chronologically and showcases the opening of the House of Dior in 1947 with the ‘New Look’. This was a post-war revelation that brought, as explained by Tina Isaac-Goize in Vogue, “a return to femininity, sumptuousness and indelible Parisien-ness that reverberates through fashion to this day”.
The designers’ creations are displayed alongside some of the sculptures and artworks that inspired them. There were all sorts of sketches, photos and documents that gave me an insight into their thinking processes.
I was struck by how Dior created garments as a way of accentuating the power and beauty of women from every angle. Part of the exhibition is dedicated to the revolutionary Bar suit and their expert tailoring cuts. Another section I enjoyed explores Dior’s work that was inspired by
nature and gardens. The long ‘Colourama’ display was a vibrant celebration of colour, with items arranged chromatically through the entire colour wheel.
The final ‘Dior Ballroom’ exhibit was truly breathtaking and very difficult to put into words. Each of the 300 haute couture gowns is a marvel of beautiful design, exquisite detailing and expert craftsmanship. Every piece is enhanced by a delicate scent and elegant accessories.
Elizabeth Fazzare summarises the everlasting nature of Dior’s dress in her article in ‘Architectural Design’: “Throughout the House’s 70 years of designs,…the identity of a Dior dress has stayed constant – and it’s in the details: the line, the silhouette, and the idea that a dress is a piece of architecture in movement”.
I found the exhibition to be a wonderful exploration of the whole creative context of the House of Dior, which is much more interesting than looking at one piece in isolation. Christian Dior was part of Paris’s post-war reconstruction, attracting business and establishing Paris as a center of fashion. He was surrounded by other artists and took inspiration from all areas of his life.
I found these words (reported in Vogue) from Florence Müller, the co-curator, to be very apt:
“Fashion designers tend to be considered superficial, but in reality they have a huge sense of culture. The goal of the exhibition is to show the source of creation and the breadth of culture that Christian Dior and the designers who succeeded him possessed. They really explored the history of art. It’s important for the public to understand that fashion isn’t ‘easy.’ Dior, and the others, made a point of bathing in culture. He understood the complexity of things, but what he loved was simplicity.”
I often feel that those involved in creating beautiful things are considered frivolous. Our worth and depth of knowledge is not always understood or appreciated. This exhibition was an amazing way to extend this education to a whole cross section of people. I can’t wait to see the impact of the first woman Creative Director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, on Dior’s future