words and photos by: Maddy Steele
No words could do this exhibition justice. I feel it is a crime to try and compact the work of a legendary fashion house into this short text, but, I will keep it brief, and let my photos speak of the powerful impact Dior has had on fashion.
After months of anticipation I finally saw the sold out ‘Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams’ exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert museum. The exhibition traces the impact of one of the most influential fashion houses over its century-long reign. It was utterly breath taking. The work of an artistic genius. To see the pieces that I had so eagerly researched for years was something of a dream and to experience this in my favourite place was so special.
The exhibition holds the work of Dior from 1947 to the present day, displaying the dress made for Princess Margaret’s 21st birthday, the famous ‘New Look’ silhouettes, and gowns worn on the red carpet by the likes of Rhianna, Jennifer Lawrence, and Emma Watson.
The exhibition follows Christian Dior’s incredible journey from Grandville, France to founding one of the world’s most famous fashion houses. As you progress through the exhibition you are taken along Dior’s journey seeing the Frenchman’s life-long love for Great Britain, his revolutionary creation of the ‘New Look’ silhouette, to the influences of his travels, and gardens. Each room is themed according to Christian Dior’s various loves, the work of creative directors that followed him, and various halls displaying the magazine covers that Dior’s work featured on, designs sketches, fabric sampling, and iconic pieces including; miniatures, his first perfumes, and of course, the Dior Saddle Bag.
Since Christian Dior’s death, each of Dior’s creative directors were influenced by world culture in some way, with inspirations from Mexico, Japan, Egypt, China and India with each collection so beautifully reflecting their times. Each creative director had a dedicated section which displayed their most iconic pieces, videos of their work and short biographies of their times with Dior. Never before had I realised the extent of the masterpieces created under Dior’s roof.
Dior was influenced heavily by the fortune teller he visited in his youth who told him that he would experience great hardship, but that he would also find riches in women. This was all true. Symbols of luck and fortune were sewn into each collection over the years with the figure of eight of his legendary bar jacket (Dior’s lucky number was 8), to the four-leaf clovers, stars, and lily flowers hidden in the heavenly intricate embroidery of the pieces in ‘The Garden’ room.
My favourite rooms were ‘The Garden’ and ‘The Ballroom’. ‘The Garden’ had lilac paper flowers falling from the ceiling above a room lined with stunning illusionary pieces. A dress decorated with feathers painted to look like budding flowers took centre stage, whilst delicately painted lace formed a dress to the side. ‘The Ballroom’ was sensational with a light show taking us from dusk to dawn as these stunning ballgowns would. Each dress was so intricately decorated and so perfectly formed.
I could have wandered the exhibition’s halls for days. Dior is the luxury fashion house has created pieces that have revolutionised the forefront of the industry. Dior has, and will continue to create history. Christian Dior really is, the designer of dreams.