Dior: Anniversary of an Iconic Fashion House

Drop Dior into the conversation and regardless of those assembled, everyone knows the topic has shifted to fashion.  And, most know that the founder, Christian Dior, launched an empire of fashion that reaches around the globe and into our personal space scented with aftershave or perfumed soaps.  What fewer know is that despite the longevity of the House of Dior, the creative genius of Monsieur Dior was at the head of the house for just ten short years.

This fact may be better known as the 70th anniversary of the house will be celebrating not only the establishment of the house but those individuals who continued his fashion philosophy while moving the brand forward through seven decades.

Christian Dior Garment Label

Christian Dior Garment Label

In December 2015, the Fashion Resource Centre had a visit from Séverine Breton, Cultural Project Coordinator at Christian Dior couture, who was assisting on the work of the books that would celebrate this historic anniversary.  Severine Breton came to Canada to research the Canadian link to the French house of couture.  Her journey included visiting several museums to find, photograph and confirm garments that were originally from Dior.  In a lovely reciprocal fashion Severine brought with her information regarding a couple of the Dior garments housed in our Centre.  Her visit was very timely as we were working on our first Fashion Resource Centre book.

Book by House of Dior

                    Book by House of Dior

One of the garments, the beautiful “Dior red” silk suit, comprised of a dress with asymmetrically placed bow and matching cocoon jacket originally belonged to Dr. Mona Campbell, great Canadian business icon and philanthropist.  Now we have a copy of the original sketches showing the fabric swatch to add to our files on the garment. (See my Dec. 2016 blog post).

The book that the House of Dior was working on is an anthology written by noted fashion curator Olivier Saillard.  The first section was published by Assouline just this past December – the remaining books will be published in December 2017 and 2018.  The books will chart the influence of Yves St. Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and finally, Maria Grazia Chiuri who in 2016 became the first female director and second Italian to lead the house.

The first book is 504 pages and will show 84 examples of the most iconic designs from Christian Dior including the “Bar Suit” which truly launched Dior couture in 1947.  The book describes Dior’s inspiration (flowers, travel, art, music, theatre, architecture), each silhouette and key outfits he created.

Couture Commerce

Couture Commerce

The first book is now available on Amazon for approximately $170.00.  (Dior is clearly a popular topic as there were 1,917 results for my “Dior books” search!)

There are several wonderful books on the influence of this designer and some to be found on campus.  One title that I recommend is by the Nora E. Vaughan Fashion Costume Senior Curator and Chair of the Veronika Gervers Research Fellowship in Textiles & Costume at the Royal Ontario Museum, Dr. Alexandra Palmer entitled, Couture and Commerce: The Transatlantic Fashion Trade in the 1950s.  Dr. Palmer explains the impact that Dior had on not just the fashion world but of the economy of France directly after the end of the Second World War.   Her perspective is unique in that she discusses couture in Canada and the women and the retailers who established a connection with French fashion.

For anyone traveling south (really south and west) the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne will feature a Dior exhibition and is listed as “one of three major events worldwide”.  Why Melbourne?  This was the location for the first showing of Dior couture outside of Paris in 1948.

John Galliano, Spring/Summer 2011

John Galliano, Spring/Summer 2011

The exhibit will include 140 garments, some original and some replicas of those from the “New Look” collection.  The show has been curated to not only show the beauty of Dior but to explain the concept of couture.  A replica of an atelier (a couture workroom) will give a close-up look at what went into the creation of these garments.  Looking at the beauty of a garment in terms of colour, embellishment and silhouette is similar to looking at any other piece of art.  To truly comprehend couture you must look at the internal structure, the tiny stitching and the feat of engineering that is to be found on the inside.  How wonderful it is for visitors to this exhibit to be able to experience something that only previous owners of such garments could.

The exhibition will run from August 27th to November 7th, 2017.  http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/exhibition/the-house-of-dior/

A little closer to home the Fashion History Museum will also be celebrating the anniversary of Dior with garments from our Fashion Resource Collection.  More details on this to follow in a future blog post.

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