“More than a parade of finery, or a catwalk of greatest hits, it is social history in needle and thread.”
If Christian Dior was the actual designer of my dreams my life would be complete and then if those dreams could somehow end up in my wardrobe that would be ideal, to be honest I would be happy with a Dior hatbox at this point, they’re iconic.
Dior has strong links to the Hollywood film industry dressing some of the most iconic film stars of the golden era to today. Watching the classic cinematic genius of some of Hollywood’s most famous featuring my favourite starlets of the era such as Marilyn Monroe, Ingrid Berman, Grace Kelly and Marlene Dietrich all of whom were firm fans of Christian Dior’s ingenious designs, truly cemented my love for fashion. I was dazzled by their glamour and enraptured by the ultimate elegance of the Dior look, his creations offer a reflection of true femininity encapsulated by a sense of regalia, each creation unique, designed to tantalise and bring any room to a complete stop.
“Deep in every heart slumbers a dream.”
Recently I got the opportunity to see the “Designer of Dreams” exhibition at the V&A. An exhibition for Christian Dior showcasing over 200 rare Haute Couture garments from the Dior Archives as well as photography and original illustrations, vintage perfumes, original make up, accessories and Christian Dior’s personal possessions.
I so love spending time at the V&A and regularly visit, it’s a calm and inspiring space for me. I mean I could happily live in the Chinoiserie furniture room but that’s another obsession.
A venue which employs a diverse range of historical artistry, it was a real treat to be able to see the complete narrative of Christian Dior both personally and famously, set within the confines of breathtakingly designed spaces echoing entirely and enhancing every piece of the collection.
Christian Dior burst onto the fashion scene in 1947 when the world was in desperate need of a “new look” and this is exactly what this famous designer delivered. So soon after the war where all sense of gender had become blurred within an environment where survival was paramount and everyone was expected to do their part in the war effort, the feminine aesthetic needed to be brought back to the forefront of the fashion industry if for nothing else but to enthuse and brighten a gravely dark time in world history.
“I drew women-flowers, soft shoulders, fine waists like liana and wide skirts like corolla.”
His first collection which was shown in the year of the fashion houses conception, 1947, flew in the face of wartime restrictions and reintroduced a femininity and focus on luxury to women’s fashion. Whilst his popular creations were sought after by the likes of Hollywood royalty he also dressed actual royalty although King George VI was dubious about allowing his daughters to wear the designs as he was concerned it would send out the wrong message of such frivolities so soon after the war ended.
“A dress is a piece of ephemeral architecture designed to enhance the proportions of the female body.”
As the house continued to grow and his collaborations strengthened Dior branched out into accessories such as jewellery, gloves and hosiery. The French Fashion House was one of the elite labels that helped bring costume jewellery into the mainstream. Dior believed that all accessories added to stylise a Dior look needed to be entirely encapsulated by the fashion house and although the board of Couture was unhappy with his decision to branch out into such things as they believed that this would only dilute the importance of couture, Christian Dior was too much of a force in the fashion world and very quickly proved them wrong.
“It is unforgivable to do what one doesn’t love especially if one succeeds.”
Dior was extremely superstitious and employed several mantras which were religiously played out upon the completion of every collection by the designer including having his tarot cards read before each opening catwalk show, ensuring that one model wore a brooch featuring the flower Lily of the Valley and that each collection included a dress named “Grenville”, the place that Christian Dior was born in France, 1905.
The epitome of timeless fashion, the Dior fashion house continued to dictate the forefront of the fashion industry headed by the founder until his death at the age of 52 from a heart attack whilst on holiday in Italy in 1957, only a few months after appearing on the cover of Time magazine.
“Real elegance is everywhere, especially in the things that don’t show.”
Dior’s funeral was attended by an estimated 2,500 people in Paris including all of his staff and entire host of his famous clients. The fashion house was earning over $20million annually at the time of his death. Christian Dior’s assistant Yves Saint Laurent then took over the house until 1960 when he was called up to the French army, since then Creative Directors at the house of Dior have included Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré and John Galliano. Today, Christian Dior is headed up by Maria Grazia Chiuri, the first woman to lead the creative side of the label in its 69 year history.
Christian Dior had a great passion for gardens and the beauty of flowers, the form of a petal and the definitive likeness to a delicate femininity, which would lead the way in carving out his unique fantastical creations, and the magical essence of his designs which strongly inspire me in my work today. I feel an affinity with the designer in the way in which we want to see the world as a dreamlike fantasy filled with an aspiring luxury, lost in a narrative of romanticism, a chance to escape the anxiety of everyday life and see the true beauty of the world.
“By being natural and sincere, one often can create revolutions without having sought them.”