Apologies for the second fashion post in a row but I’ve just been so excited to write about the Dior exhibition I visited in Paris (and it’s quite a long post so be warned!). It was an unbelievable exhibition, and I’d go as far to say the best exhibition I’ve ever been to. It was curated so beautifully and displayed the most beautiful collection of dresses and other Dior paraphernalia.
The exhibition was Christian Dior, Couturier du Rêve at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, a museum renowned for spectacular curation. Titled ‘Designer of Dreams,’ the exhibition aimed to capture the dreamlike essence of the work of Dior, celebrating the 70th anniversary of Dior. The exhibition featured sections on Christian Dior’s life, clients, inspirations, sketches, mock-ups, garments and also the work of the subsequent designers for the Dior fashion house.
The curators, Florence Müller and Olivier Gabet, organised over 300 haute couture gowns in both chronological and thematically designed rooms, capturing and highlighting various different aspects of Dior. (Although I’d love to write about all the rooms, it would end up being a ridiculously long post so I’m going to focus on a few of my favourites, for information on the other aspects of the exhibition visit Les Arts Décoratifs website.)
One of the areas I’d like to comment on is the colour themed room. This displayed an immense range of objects, from accessories to miniature mock-up dresses. Although the concept of bringing together a whole range of objects of certain colours to form a rainbow seems a good idea, I felt the reality of this section was quite confusing and jarring. Original Christian Dior drawings and fabric samples were juxtaposed against garishly modern accessories. In addition to the confusing array of objects, this was the most busy section of the exhibition, meaning it was incredibly difficult to take in each object and appreciate it. Understandably, such a large group of objects is difficult to curate, however I feel some sort of chronological approach may have been better suited.
I felt the other thematic sections of the exhibition worked more effectively, combining old and new designs with ease. One of my favourite areas of the exhibition were the floral rooms. With paper vines cascading from the ceiling and curving paths circling the dresses, the room instantly transported you to a beautiful garden. Christian Dior’s designs were largely influenced by time spent in the family garden, Granville on the Normandy coast. His mother Madeleine gave him his first taste for gardening, creating an exotic paradise for Dior to immerse himself in. Flowers continued to be prominent throughout Dior’s career through the shape of the gown as well as the surface embellishment. They hence became an intrinsic part of the Dior style, remaining prominent in subsequent courtiers of the house. The room brings all these designs together perfectly, effortlessly grouping types of floral embellishment, through colour and style.
In complete contrast to the garden-like scenes, the curators formed boudoir type rooms, incorporating paintings, furniture and objets d’art into the display of the garments. Christian Dior was heavily influenced by the 18th century, with both the drawing rooms of the house in Granville and his later Parisian apartment decorated in a similar style. Dior frequently looked back to the time of elegance and extravagance in the creation of his magnificent ball gowns, replicating the feminine ideals of the past. These rooms put the dresses in direct dialogue with the era, allowing the viewer to really see into the mind of Dior and his influences.
The exhibition not only displayed the finished garments but also included the most wide-ranging display of atelier toiles to date, showing the process behind the ball gown. There was also a workstation in this section showing the construction of a Dior handbag, this was a great way to demonstrate the time and effort that goes into creating couture.
The famous bar suit was also on display, a symbolic statement of Dior’s New Look, the new aesthetic, after the devastation of World War Two. Having studied this suit and Dior’s introduction, it was amazing to see in person, displayed in the centre of one of the large hall rooms halfway through the exhibition. (I think I’ll write another blog post at some point all about Dior’s New Look as I am so in love with his dresses!)
One of the final sections of the exhibition highlighted the work of the subsequent courtiers of Dior, with a room given to Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and, Maria Grazia Chiuri. These rooms helped to give recognition to the designers for their individual contribution to Dior. I found it interesting to compare how each of them interpreted the Dior style differently and gave it a unique twist. It was amazing to see how effortlessly their work was integrated into the other rooms of the exhibition, yet appeared so contrasting in their individual rooms.
The exhibition ended in the nave of the museum, which was transformed into a ballroom, aided by a series of projections. This was a spectacular room and I was completely speechless despite having seen photos previous to my visit. The curators aimed to recreate the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, famous for its extravagant balls and luxurious decor. Having visited Versailles, I can honestly say they did an amazing job to recreate the essence of such a historically magnificent place. The space displayed a series of beautifully elegant ball gowns, including those worn by Princess Diana and more recently, Jennifer Lawrence. The projections worked on a loop, coating the walls and ceiling with classical frescos to constellations in the night sky, making the dresses shimmer in the different lights, creating the most magical experience. This area beautifully brought the exhibition to an incredible end, showing many creations seen together for the first time in Paris, a true celebration of 70 years of the House of Dior.
The exhibition is open until the 7 January 2018, it really is a must-see exhibition, so make sure you go and visit if you are in or around Paris before it closes. Expect to queue for a couple of hours for entry, so make sure you book tickets in advance. Visit the exhibition website for more details.