by Sarah Muir
LONDON – I’ve often wondered if I could time travel, which moments in fashion history would I want to visit? The presentation of Dior’s 1947 collection would probably be the first stop on my itinerary. Those revolutionary designs have become so firmly imbedded into our fashion psyche that it’s easy to forget the astonishment that greeted the collection.
Going some way to making my time-travelling fantasy a reality is ‘Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Unable to attend the exhibition when it first showed in Paris, it was with a considerable degree of excitement that I learnt of the exhibition coming to the V&A in London.
‘Designer of Dreams’ is the largest exhibition on the subject of Monsieur Dior and his fashion house to come to the British Isles, and the biggest fashion exhibition since the spectacular ‘Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty’ in 2015.
Housed in the recently-completed Sainsbury Gallery, one is submerged in a world of impeccable Parisian couture. On entering the space the visitor is immediately greeted by two exquisite pieces: the gown designed for Princess Margaret’s 21st birthday and the Bar Suit. Iconic is a word which should rarely, if ever, be used when talking about fashion, but if ever an outfit had earned that accolade, it is the Bar Suit.
It is important to note that the exhibition traces the history not just of M. Dior but also his successors: from the alarmingly young Saint Laurent right through to Maria Grazia Chiuri (Chiuri had only recently taken on the role of Artistic Director so was not included in the Paris show). The rooms are curated by theme – grand balls, exotic travel and gardens to name but three – rather than period. It’s fascinating to see Christian Dior’s designs juxtaposed with more modern interpretations, demonstrating how subsequent designers have visited and revisited the DNA at the heart of this great house. This time-travelling curation also makes for a fun test of one’s fashion history knowledge: Simons or Galliano, Saint Laurent or Bohan? Though to be fair, the Gallianos do stand out a mile…
Albeit the exhibition is a somewhat scaled-down version of the Parisian original, it is still a joy to see so many pieces together in one space, and the spectacular Atelier room is a welcome inclusion from the Paris show. Understandably, the V&A has put its own British stamp on the show with Dior’s fashion shows at Blenheim featuring prominently and the inclusion of Princess Margaret’s dress alongside many pieces from the V&A’s own extensive archive.
While the ‘Designer of Dreams’ may lack the visceral impact of Savage Beauty, it is nonetheless beautiful. It’s certainly a must-see and I’m already planning a return visit.
Sarah’s world and her appreciation of all things beautiful (people, style, architecture…) can be found on her Instagram profile