The Most Extensive House of Dior Exhibition In History To Launch In London

Christian Dior with model Lucky, circa 1955

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Christian Dior

The most extensive exhibition on the House of Dior in U.K history is headed to London next month. Spanning from 1947 to the present day, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams traces the history and impact of one of the 20th century’s most influential couturiers, and the six artistic directors who have succeeded him, to explore the enduring influence of the fashion house.

Christian Dior by John Galliano b.1960, Haute Couture, AutumnWinter 2004

Photo Credit: Laziz-Hamani

The exhibition will run from 2 February through 14 July at the V&A Museum (Victoria & Albert); Designer of Dreams will be the museum’s biggest fashion exhibition since Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty in 2015, and will feature couture gowns worn by Princess Margaret, Margot Fonteyn and Jennifer Lawrence, among others.

Princess Margaret (left), with the Duchess of Marlborough behind, presents Christian Dior with a scroll entitling him to Honorary Life Membership of the British Red Cross after the presentation of his Winter Collection at Blenheim Palace on 3rd November 1954.

Photo Credit: Popperfoto/Getty Images

Based on the major exhibition Christian Dior: Couturier du Rêve, organized by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, the exhibition is reimagined for the V&A. A brand-new section explores, for the first time, the designer’s fascination with British culture: Dior admired the grandeur of the great houses and gardens of Britain, as well as British-designed ocean liners, including the Queen Mary. He also had a preference for Savile Row suits. His first UK fashion show took place at London’s Savoy Hotel, and in 1952, he established Christian Dior London.

Christian Dior by John Galliano, J’adore, Dress, Haute Couture, 2008 (custom-made)

Photo Credit: Photo (c) Laziz Hamani. Christian Dior Parfums collection, Paris

The exhibition investigates Dior’s creative collaborations with British manufacturers, including Dents (gloves), Rayne (shoes) Lyle & Scott (knitwear) and Mitchel Maer (costume jewelery). It also focuses on his most notable early British clients, from author Nancy Mitford to ballet dancer Margot Fonteyn. A highlight is the Christian Dior dress worn by Princess Margaret for her 21st birthday celebrations, on loan from the Museum of London. The exhibition also brings to life Dior’s spectacular fashion shows staged in the UK’s most luxurious stately homes, including Blenheim Palace in 1954.

Christian Dior with model Sylvie, circa 1948.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Christian Dior

Drawn from the extensive Dior Archives, the exhibition presents over 500 objects, with over 200 rare Haute Couture garments shown alongside accessories, fashion photography, film, vintage perfume, original make-up, illustrations, magazines, and Christian Dior’s personal possessions. It also showcases highlights from the V&A’s world-class Couture collections, including the iconic Bar Suit, gifted to the museum by the House of Dior in 1960 with the help of Cecil Beaton.

Christian Dior (1905–57), Avril, Dress, Haute Couture, SpringSummer 1955, A Line.

Photo Credit: Photo (c) Laziz Hamani. Dior Héritage collection, Paris

From horticulture to global travel and historicism, the show reveals the sources of inspiration that defined the House of Dior’s aesthetic. From the daring designs of Yves Saint Laurent to the rational style of Marc Bohan, the flamboyance of Gianfranco Ferré, the exuberance of John Galliano, the minimalism of Raf Simons, and Maria Grazia Chiuri’s feminist vision of fashion, the exhibition shows how each successive artistic director has stayed true to Dior’s vision of Haute Couture, while bringing their own creative sensibilities to the House.

French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent (1936 – 2008) in London, 11th November 1958. He is preparing for the following day’s Dior Autumn collection show to an audience including Princess Margaret, at Blenheim Palace.

The exhibit is organized into 11 sections, as follows:

Section 1: An extended biography on Christian Dior (1905–57), from family life to his early career as a gallery owner and the founding of the House of Dior in 1946. It encompasses Dior’s extensive travel, the global success of his couture house and the development of Dior perfumes.

Section 2: The New Look focuses on Dior’s famed Bar Suit from his ground-breaking first collection in 1947 and considers how subsequent Dior designers have reinterpreted it over the years.

Section 3: The Dior Line showcases ten defining looks made between 1947 and 1957, Christian Dior’s own tenure at the House.

Christian Dior by Maria Grazia Chiuri (b.1964), Dress, Haute Couture, SpringSummer 2018.

Section 4: Dior in Britain uncovers Christian Dior’s personal love of England and his British client’s reciprocal love for his fashion. Focusing mostly on Dior’s lifetime, it highlights early Dior fashion shows staged in country houses and grand hotels around Britain, the Dior London company and British clients.

Section 5: Historicism examines the influence of historic dress and decorative arts in the House of Dior’s designs from 1947 to today, revealing Christian Dior’s fascination with the 18th century, and the Belle Époque fashions worn by his mother, Madeleine Dior.

Princess Margaret wearing Dior on her 21st birthday

Photo Credit: Royal photograph by Sir Cecil Beaton (1904 – 1980)

Section 6: Travels explores how travel and different countries and cultures have consistently inspired the various designers at the House of Dior.

Section 7: The Garden highlights the importance of flowers and gardens as a source of inspiration to the House, from garments to perfume.

Section 8: Designers for Dior spotlights the work of the subsequent six key artistic directors since Christian Dior’s death in 1957.

Christian Dior by Raf Simons (b.1968), Coat, Haute Couture, AutumnWinter 2012.

Photo Credit: Laziz Hamani. Dior Héritage collection, Paris

Section 9: The Ateliers showcases toiles from the Dior Ateliers in a stunning ‘cabinet of curiosity’ style installation.

Section 10: Diorama examines the breadth of the House of Dior, from accessories including costume jewelry, hats, shoes and bags, to illustrations, miniature dresses and archive lipstick and perfume, bottles, collected in a kaleidoscopic display.

Section 11: The Ballroom celebrates the fantasy of the Ball, evoking the lavish interiors of the great houses of Britain. Stunning examples of evening wear showcase 70 years of the incredible virtuosity of the haute couture ateliers.