“My dresses make a princess of every woman” Christian Dior
Exactly 3 weeks to the official first day of Summer!
No doubt most of you have already made your travel plans but I’m urging all fashion enthusiasts- dare I say anyone who appreciates beautiful things, if you find yourself in Texas this summer (bring your fans!) head to the Dallas Museum of Art for the “Dior: From Paris To The World” exhibit.
I’ve tried my best to exercise restraint by not showing tooo many photos!
The show begins with the “Revolutionary New Look,” a gallery backlit in red silhouetting 18 looks in black representing the seven creative directors in Dior’s 72-year history.
As a young man Christian Dior (1905-1957) dreamt of becoming an architect or composer. Instead, he studied political science and became a successful art gallerist. He worked with many famous artists of the period including Picasso, Matisse, Calder, Dali and Man Ray before The Great Depression devastated his family’s wealth and he took up fashion illustration to make ends meet.
A very young Christian Dior.
Below is an abridged excerpt from a 1948 article entitled “DIOR” in Life Magazine;
Although scarcely anyone had ever heard of him before last year, Christian Dior had been a minor league figure in Paris dress business, on and off, since 1936. About a year and a half ago, with backing from a French gambler and millionaire named Marcel Boussac, he left a job as one of Lucien Lelong’s numerous assistants to open his own dress shop — a fine old mansion on the Avenue Montaigne, a few steps away from the Champs Elysées. He plunged lavishly, staking everything on a single throw. For four months 85 decorators and painters labored to produce an atmosphere of discreet elegance unequaled in any existing Paris salon de couture. When the setting was ready, Dior retired to his little country house near Fontainbleau and meditated for a week. He returned from his lonely vigil, his pockets stuffed with 300 designs scrawled on odd bits of paper.
“I’m a mild man,” Dior says, “but I have violent tastes.” Violent tastes were precisely what the situation demanded. Dior went all-out for his new line. His narrow waists became as much as 2 inches narrower by means of specially installed corsets. His low necks were so low that they barely stopped at the waist. Other designers might sidle up to old-fashioned femininity and romance; Dior tackled it headlong.
The rest, as they say, is fashion history.
“A pioneer in the globalization of fashion” Dior built an empire that spanned around the world. Six designers have succeeded him since his untimely death in 1957 at the age of 52.
Interestingly enough, in searching for photos of a “young Christian Dior” the first images to pop up are always of Yves Saint Laurent. Pics of young Dior himself are rare.
Ahh, the power of the pretty face!
Yves Saint Laurent, having started as an assistant when he was only 19, became Dior’s first successor. Dior himself designated Saint Laurent as such, though the House of Dior was understandably wary given YSL’s tender age of 21 at the time of Dior’s death. His tenure was to last just two years, but as history has also shown, as well as being a ‘creative’ himself, Dior had an keen eye for finding exceptional talent in others.
The Saint Laurent period.
Before every collection, Dior drew hundreds of sketches, which were transformed into toile, or mock-ups in plain cotton muslin.
Though I think he looks much older, this portrait of Dior must have been done close to the time he passed away from a heart attack at 52 at the height of his career.
The debonair Marc Bohan, was to follow Yves Saint Laurent remaining at the helm of the house of Dior from 1961 until 1989.
Gianfranco Ferre (I’m a huge fan) followed Marc Bohan as the next head of Dior, becoming the first non french designer to enter the realms of Parisian haute couture. His residence was to last from 1989-1996.
And then came John. “The Story Teller” (Dior; 1997-2011)
Say or think what you will of John Galliano, the enfant terrible of British fashion raised the house of Dior to unparalleled heights of fashion fantasy.
A quick search of “Galliano at Dior” serves up a cornucopia of lush visuals. I haven’t gone down a rabbit hole of clicks that time consuming since I was doing a post on Marlon Brando 😉
Unfortunately, John Galliano left under a dark cloud (of tulle no doubt) in 2011, after being let go by Dior when he was caught spewing drunken, anti-Semitic slurs in a Paris restaurant. Off to Rehab Land he went, reemerging as creative director at Martin Margiela in 2014. He is now a vegetarian and committed to using NO FUR in fashion. So, at least in this case, the leopard has indeed changed his spots.
Next came Raf Simons (Dior 2012-2015) who calmed things back down at the house of Dior with a return to romanticism and nature, albeit in a very sculptural form.
Simons shows featured towering walls of lush flowers from beginning to end.
Lastly, til present, Maria Grazia Chiuri, who in 2016 became the first woman to ever be Creative Director at Dior.
From collections by Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri .
This photo is interesting as we see an original Christian Dior on the left, John Galliano in the centre, and Maria Grazia Chiuri to the right.
Couldn’t you just weep with the details??!
A garden of handspun delights
Slim Paley on the beat.
John Galliano for Dior
“To those who criticized his outrageousness, Galliano replied “Better to have no taste at all than to be limited by good or bad taste”
While this might be a bit of throwaway fashion quote, I always appreciated the fantasies that emerged from the scrapbooks and collages of Galliano’s travels. I viewed his storylines from all corners of the globe as homages rather than ‘cultural appropriations’. Then again, to be frank, I have no problem with wearing clogs, berets, African jewelry or sushi being served in school cafeterias for that matter, but… to each his own. The only thing I am sure of is that arguments can and will be made for both sides of this controversial topic and everyone should be entitled to their opinion without feeling the need to dissuade others of theirs.
Below, a paragraph from an otherwise glowing review of the DMA exhibition by Rick Brettell for The Dallas News.
Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior’s current head of design, ‘culturally appropriating’ Japanese culture.
One section of the exhibit features several large vitrines displaying both real and miniature accessories & dresses.
Dipping for Dior
I’ve no idea how the DMA exhibit compares to the current 70 year celebration of Dior on at the V & A in London entitled “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams” (previously in Paris and SOLD OUT May to Sept. 1st) other than the V&A show at least partially focuses on Dior’s relationship with Britain.
To be fair, however fab the V & A exhibition is (and I’m sure it’s pretty damn fab) given the difference in size and scope of these two museums, I think the DMA has mounted an incredible show.
Gosh, I don’t know about you, but I’m freshly inspired! This is why visits to museums and a little culture here and there is so good for the soul. From now on I’m really going to make the effort to up my sartorial game a little and not just on special occasions. It’s never too late!
And for anyone who saw me at the airport on the way home…I haven’t started just yet. Because, the weekend!
Please watch this trailer and tell me fashion isn’t fun.
From the trailer of “Dior and I”
Do you have a favourite Dior designer ??!
All photos taken in the MDA are mine. Other photos (of designers etc.) credited whenever possible.
All pieces from the Dior Heritage Collection, Paris.
image from the “Dior: From Paris to The World” at the DMA