Long before the words ‘new look’ signposted a high street mainstay for getting a cheap-and-cheerful fashion fix at, Christian Dior was revolutionising the post-war style landscape using the very same words. His voluminous skirts and cinched waist look remains one of the most iconic ever created, a byword for a particular kind of ultra-feminine glamour.
The V&A has just announced its major exhibition Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, featuring designs from the man who started it all, plus the other designers who have led the brand and shaped it in their own image. The show, which is a refashioning of the Dior exhibition previously hosted by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, contains designs from 1947 through to the present era with Maria Grazia Chiuri in charge.
You’ll need to wait until 2019 to visit the exhibition (Feb 2 - Jul 14) but here’s a sneak peak of what’s on display to get you excited now:
Écarlate afternoon dress
Let’s start with the dresses. This 1955 scarlet number is about as Dior as it comes. Why? Because of the letter Y. Along with the now more-familiar A line, the designer also created Y lines and H lines (more on that later). Although this afternoon dress [pause here and imagine a time when one required dresses exclusively for the afternoon] has a full skirt, the large collar emphasises the width of the shoulders, in turn making the waist look smaller.
Designer perfumes (the only items most of us can afford from high-end brands) are made for two reasons: to make you smell nice and to look good on the display. Diorling came out in 1963 and received a modern update in 2012. But before you treat yourself to a deep inhalation of this earthy-floral masterpiece, ponder the Art Nouveau brilliance of this rose-topped bottle. Doesn't your dressing table now seem a little... lacking?
Sketch by Christian Dior
Christian Louboutin is famous for his sprezzatura sketches of sexy shoes, but his namesake Dior was also pretty handy at the art side of designing. This image was created for his autumn-winter haute couture collection in 1950. Note the attitude of complete confidence he installs in this image of a post-war woman.
Princess Margaret photo
Fans of Vanessa Kirby’s character on The Crown (some would argue, the best character in the show…) might be interested to know that the Queen’s younger sister was a big fan of Dior. She even celebrated her 21st birthday in one of his designs, which will be included in the exhibition. This photo shows HRH presenting Dior with a scroll entitling him to Honorary Life Membership of the British Red Cross.
Pérou short evening dress
Let’s finish with the dresses. After the letter Y comes H, or at least it does in this list. This H line evening dress first made an appearance in 1954, as part of that year’s A/W collection. What’s nice is how completely classic – and therefore timeless – the style looks. It was given to the V&A by Cecil Beaton (another one for Crown fans).
Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams is on at the V&A From 2 February - 14 July 2019. Click here for more details.