Dior's 70-year legacy of Haute Couture will be celebrated in a major retrospective at the NGV next year – House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture. The exhibition is a world premiere, curated by the team at the NGV and opening in August 2017.
Dior, which is now owned by global luxury titans LVMH, gave the NGV unfettered access to their archives to create the exhibition. Founded by Christian Dior in 1946, the house is best known for the 'new look', a voluminous and ultra-feminine silhouette that came to define post-war dressing. All those poodle skirts and joyful frills you associate with the 1950s? Dior did it first, and best.
Because this exhibition focuses explicitly on Dior's Haute Couture creations, craftsmanship will be at the centre of the show. The garments made in the Christian Dior atelier often take hundreds of hours, and dozens of skilled hands to assemble. This makes their price astronomical. A piece of Haute Couture nowadays costs tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. Which means an exhibition is the only way your average human can cast their eyes on this rarefied craft.
Rather than sorting the Maison's clothes chronologically, the exhibition will deal with them thematically. The New Look, the lines of Dior (that's the shape the clothes make when they hang on the body, not the women queuing to buy them) and the way the house has used flowers as both an adornment and a source of inspiration in garment construction will all be explored.
Christian Dior is not the only notable designer to have walked the dove grey carpets of number 30 Avenue Montaigne. After his sudden death in 1957, a young Yves Saint Laurent took control of the house. In just six seasons he went from success to scandal, thanks to a collection inspired by Paris' beatnik underground.
In more recent times, Dior's name has become almost inseparable from what fashion people call 'the cycle'; the constant drive for increased output and profitability that has seen fashion houses go from producing two Haute Couture collections and two ready-to-wear collections a year to four, or even six ready to wear collections per annum. Some attribute the anti-Semitic drunken outburst that saw John Galliano deposed from his position as Dior creative director to the pressure-cooker environment in which he operated. The intensity is certainly the reason Raf Simmons, the house's second most recent designer, left after just three years at the helm. Though the exhibition will not deal explicitly with this topic, it will look at the way Dior's designers have shaped the label, and 'the cycle' will be teased out further through public programming.
The first Haute Couture collection of Maria Grazia Chiuri, Christian Dior's current (and first female) creative director will hit the runways this January, and the NGV will be whisking key garments straight from the catwalk to the museum.
The chance to see the house's latest chapter up close isn't the only element of the exhibition hardcore fashion nerds will froth on. There'll also be a room dedicated to Dior's lesser known, and surprisingly complex, history with Australia, which is almost as old as the house itself.
Alongside more than 140 garments, there'll be supplementary material on display, from the atelier charts that mark the birth of a haute couture garment, to archival footage, photography and sources of design inspiration.
Check out our picks of art exhibitions to see in December.