Monthly Archives: February 2019

Dior in Denver: Review of the Exhibition, Part II

It’s been over two weeks since I arrived home from Denver, Colorado where I visited this Exhibit, and I still think about it many times throughout each day.  It was that spectacular.

This image adorned one of the doors of the elevators to the second floor where the exhibit is located.

 

The Exhibit was divided into 15 different themes/sections.  In the first part of my review of the Exhibit, I covered the evolution of the fashion house from its founding in 1947 by Christian Dior up to the present day under its leadership by Maria Grazia Chiuri.  A separate section was devoted to each of the seven (so far) Creative  Directors.   The other eight sections covered a myriad of topics; however, for me, three of the most outstanding and fascinating displays were 1) The Office of Dreams; 2) Ladies in Dior; and 3) The Total Look.

“The Office of Dreams” refers to Christian Dior’s studio.  His hundreds of sketches, made for each of his collections, were first translated into toiles, made of muslin.  (Here in the US, we often refer to our mock-ups as “muslins.”) According to the story-boards, Dior’s assistant and head of the workshops (ateliers), Madame Carre would ask this question of each toile:  “Have I expressed you correctly.”  When approved, each toile would be taken apart and its various components would be used as the pattern for that design.  This process is, of course, used today in haute couture – and by those of us who are home couture dressmakers.  The Exhibit had the most fascinating display of cotton toiles, all from recent Dior collections, the earliest being from 2007.

This coat by Raf Simons from 2012 received special attention.

A representation of the pattern derived from its toile was enlarged and featured on the opposing wall to all those toiles on display.  As a dressmaker, I was enthralled with this opportunity to see all the pieces that went into this coat.

“Ladies in Dior” featured many of the notable, famous, socialite, and stylish women who have dressed in Dior over the decades.  Among those women are:  Lee Radziwill (sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis), Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlene Dietrich, Josephine Baker, Marilyn Monroe, and more recently, Charlize Theron, Jennifer Lawrence, Natalie Portman, and Rihanna.

Elizabeth Taylor wore this embroidered faille evening gown from the Spring-Summer collection of 1961:

Here is a detail of the skirt to the dress above. Notice the slight sweep of the back part of the skirt. Very graceful and flattering.

I found this next gown to be one of the most amazing on display.  Named “Fanny”,” it was designed for Fall-Winter of 1953 and made for American Elizabeth Firestone (who married into the founding family of Firestone Tires.)

On display close to the location of the dress was this drawing, including a swatch of the celestial-blue silk taffeta in which it was made.

In addition, there were numerous letters, sales receipts, and notes documenting many of the dresses in this section. The correspondence was perfectly fascinating.

I had to check twice to make sure this black embroidered dress had not actually been designed by Christian Dior himself.

Raf Simons  was inspired by the 1949 Miss Dior dress when he designed the one pictured above in black for Natalie Portman in 2013.

The 1949 embroidered evening dress designed by Christian Dior and named for his sister. This design served as the prototype for Raf Simon’s dress.

This dress with its spectacular bow is similar to one worn by Marlene Dietrich.  This one is from the Fall-Winter 1949 collection.

Designed in 2017 by Maria Grazia Chiuri, this long taffeta evening ensemble (below) was worn by Rihanna. It is the picture of elegance.

Another amazing bow adorns this dress, below, from the Fall-Winter 1956 collection.  Worn by Dior client Claire Newman, it is of black silk faille.

Here is a close-up of the fringe on the bow featured above. And notice the lovely sweep of the skirt.

Marilyn Monroe had a special affinity for the designs of Christian Dior.  In her last photo shoot, she is wearing a backless Dior dress.  This design from 2011 (Christian Dior by Bill Gaytten), below, is based on that dress, designed by March Bohan and worn by Marilyn Monroe in 1962.

One of my favorite sections of the Exhibit was “The Total Look.”  Christian Dior was a remarkable businessman in addition to being a fashion visionary.  He wanted all his clients to be able to be dressed head to toe in Dior. That included shoes, gloves, handbags, lipstick, jewelry, hats – everything to give a woman “a total look.”  This section was divided very cleverly into Dior offerings by color, and it was inspiring. Tall panels – head to toe – included items and fashions from every decade.  It was difficult to get decent photos as this area of the Exhibit was very crowded, but here goes!

Pink . . .

Oh my, this coat from Fall-Winter 1966, designed by Marc Bohan in reversible wool was simply gorgeous.

Coats from the 1960s are a favorite subject of mine!

Green and Gray . . .

The panels speak for themselves, but I couldn’t help but have a special affinity for these pumps by Roger Vivier for Christian Dior, about 1960:

The dresses portrayed in miniature were astounding, such as this one from 1957:

And this one from 1948:

Yellow . . . and a sliver of red  . . .

The yellow gown midcenter is a Raf Simons creation from the Spring-Summer 2103 collection.

Red . . .

This “Dior Red” quilted satin dress by Maria Grazia Chiuri is from the Spring-Summer 2017 collection. It was amazing.

Red and Blue . . .

Another Raf Simons creation is front and center on the Blue panel.  This wool coat is from the Fall-Winter 2013 collection.

And this miniature dress is so perfect, it is difficult to believe it is not a full-size garment.   Made in silk faille, it is by Yves Saint Laurent for the Spring-Summer 1958 collection.

From the “Office of Dreams” to the stuff of dreams, I think I have just a bit more to say about this Exhibit and the delights on display.  Can you bear a much shorter Part III?  Soon to come. . .

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Filed under Christian Dior, Fashion Exhibits, Fashion history, Uncategorized

Classic French Jacket – Number 5

Never did I imagine that when I last wrote about the progress on this jacket, it would be an entire month before I could declare it “finished.”  But such is a fact of life with the construction of one of these jackets.  They always seem to take much longer to complete than ever imagined.  (I should remind myself that during that month, I also made a wool skirt and I was away twice on short trips, but still…)

As this is the fifth one I have made, I can safely say that I have developed my own set of tips for working my way through the lengthy construction process.  Of course, it all has to start with a pattern which is a perfect fit.  Fortunately my muslin pattern is from a Jackets Class I had with Susan Khalje over five years ago. With this pattern, I can go right to my boucle and get started.

While it is often recommended to cut out just the body of the jacket, minus the sleeves (the variegated weave of which is then checked with the constructed jacket body before cutting them out), I have developed enough confidence that I cut out my sleeves along with the body of the jacket.  This allows me to make the sleeves first.  For me there are two advantages to doing this: 1) there is a psychological benefit in knowing that the sleeves are lined, linings are fell-stitched in place, trim is on, and the sleeves are as finished as they can be before setting them into the body of the jacket, and 2) I like to trim the sleeves first, as a way of testing the trim I have chosen.  If I do not like it, I only have trim on one, or two, sleeves which must be removed.  It is also much easier to sew trim on a sleeve which is still separate from the jacket.

Another tip I have learned is to use my walking foot not only for the channel quilting of the lining and fashion fabric (a must), but also for all the seams.  I pin profusely, but the walking foot helps to keep the fabric from slipping, crucial when matching all those lines and plaids prevalent in a typical boucle weave.

I chose this navy and white silk charmeuse from Britex Fabrics for my lining fabric. The boucle is from Mendel Goldberg Fabrics.

I really went round and round with the trim for this jacket.  I knew I wanted to use self-fringe, but I also knew it would need some definition added to it.  After trying several colors of velvet and Petersham ribbon in the trough of the fringe, I realized I would have to go to a bright orange as an underlay for the navy twisted braid I wanted to place on top.

The trim was applied in three steps. Here the fringe is attached as the first step. Not too exciting all by itself.

The next step was to apply this bright orange velvet ribbon, also from Britex. It was really a leap of faith to use this very demonstrative color. It looks fairly garish like this! (I sewed each edge of this ribbon separately, so twice around for this part of the trim.)

But once the navy twisted braid is on, step number three, that bright orange underlay is fine.

One thing I have done with all my jackets – and this is a tip from Susan Khalje – is to add about 1/2 inch in length to the center back of the jacket, curving it up gently to the side seams. I love the effect that this little bit of extra curve gives to the back of the jacket.

I always wax and iron the thread which I use for applying the trim.  It adds strength, but also is easier with which to work.  For this jacket, I also carefully ironed each “level” of trim as I applied it.

A detail of the right pocket. Of course, and this is preaching to the choir, the pockets absolutely cannot be cut out until the body of the jacket is completed. Their placement is a visual determination which really depends upon the fit and appearance of the finished jacket.

I found these vintage buttons in one of my button boxes.  I knew I wanted to use dark blue buttons, and I kind of liked the appearance of these.

The only hesitation I had is that they are plastic!  It seems a bit of a sacrilege to put plastic buttons on one of these jackets, but I actually think they look okay.  If I find other navy blue buttons in my future travels, I might switch them at some point.  But right now, they work.

Because I had only 8 buttons, I was limited to two pockets, and three buttons on each sleeve. I probably would not have put four pockets on this jacket anyway, so that was not really a compromise.

I have enough of the boucle left over to make a simple straight skirt, I think.  However, that will not happen this year!  I am so ready to move on to my next project.  In fact, it may be well over a year before I plunge into another one of these jackets.  I have but one other boucle lurking about in my fabric closet right now, and I am content to let it stay there for a while.

It was much too cold for outdoor pictures, so these will have to do!

I like the jacket worn closed …

… or open.

The curve of the back hem is apparent here.

Now it’s time to tiptoe ever so quietly into the lighter shades and fabrics of early Spring, despite the snow that is currently falling. I am so happy to have this jacket in the “finished” column.

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Filed under Boucle for French style jackets, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Chanel-type jackets, classic French jacket, couture construction, Linings, Uncategorized, vintage buttons

Dior: From Paris to the World in Denver, Colorado: Review of the Exhibition, Part 1

Some opportunities in life just beg to be taken advantage of.  Such was the case when I knew that Dior: From Paris to the World would be at the Denver Museum of Art from November, 2108 until March, 2019.  Denver is a four-hour plane trip from my home on the East Coast of the United States, but, really, that did not deter me.  My husband said he would join me on this expedition, and the icing on the cake was the fact that our son and his girlfriend, who live in California, would rendezvous with us in Denver to have a long weekend together.

Tickets to the Exhibition needed to be purchased in advance, as the Museum had timed entrance to view it.

I had read numerous professional reviews of the Exhibit before arriving in Denver, so I knew that the displays of the clothing did not have captions on them.  Instead, attendees each received a “little black book” in which were listed the numbered captions and a replica of the storyboards on display throughout the Exhibit.

I loved this method of captioning.  It allowed the clothing to appear uncluttered, reading the captions was easier than trying to share a small space with lots of other exhibition goers, and the little black book makes a wonderful reference to pair with the photos I took.  (The only confusing aspect was that many of the fashions on display were not in numerical order, so I had to pay close attention to the numbers on the platforms as I read my little black book.)  In addition, the Museum provided each attendee with an audio device, for intermittent descriptions and historical context throughout the Exhibit.  Most of the designated  audio stops in the Exhibit had not only an adult version, but also a “kids” version, which I thought was a brilliant idea.

The Exhibit was huge, incredibly comprehensive, and beautifully presented.  It is not only a retrospective of the Fashion House founded and “grounded” by Christian Dior, it is also a visual history of some of the most important influences on modern, post-war fashion. It reminds us in no uncertain terms of the importance of Christian Dior himself  in shaping our current interest and fascination with the world of haute couture – and for those of us who sew – the world of couture dressmaking and sewing.

In this Part I of my review, I will limit myself to the Artistic Directors/Fashion Designers – and their body of work – who have led the House from its beginning in 1947 up until the current day.

It was exactly 72 years ago today, February 12, 1947, when Christian Dior presented his first collection.  Although he named the two lines of his collection  Corolle (Flower) and En8 (Figure 8), the editor of Harper’s Bazaar, Carmel Snow, immediately gave a new name to this ground-breaking style, calling it the “New Look,” a designation which endures today. Of course, the most recognizable of this New Look is the Bar suit.

Other dresses from the reign of Dior himself include the following:

Wool afternoon dress, Fall-Winter, 1948.

Wool suit with high windbreaker collar, Fall-Winter 1949. I find this a rather remarkable look for 1949.

Taffeta evening dress, Fall-Winter 1952. Dior was known for punctuating his shows with a vibrant red dress at the halfway point.

Satin dress with Chinese motif, Fall-Winter 1956.

Short brocaded silk evening dress, Fall-Winter 1957. This was so gorgeous!

Here is a side view of the same dress.

After Dior’s untimely death of a heart attack in 1957, the House was led by Yves Saint Laurent, who had been 19 when Christian Dior hired him as an assistant in 1955. Only 21 at this pivotal time for the fashion house, Saint Laurent boldly presented a departure in silhouette in his first collection in 1958.  The Trapeze – or Triangle – collection was welcomed by fashionable women, and Saint Laurent was embraced as fashion’s new hero despite his young age.

Short evening dress with bobble fringe trim, Fall-Winter 1960.

Wool ensemble, Fall-Winter 1960. Notice the large pompom buttons.

This side view shows the size of the pompoms. This was really a fantastic look.

Short evening dress embellished with satin bows, part of Saint Laurent’s Trapeze line, Spring-Summer 1958.

By 1960, Saint Laurent veered again, presenting his “Beatnik” look, which was too radical at the time to be widely accepted.  He left the House of Dior that year and was succeeded by Marc Bohan in 1961.

Bohan had the longest tenure as Creative Director for the House of Dior, leading the firm from 1961-1989.  His first collection emphasized slim youthfulness, but with a classic nod to the founder of the House.  Elegance, beautiful fabrics, embroidery, restrained but noteworthy color, and exacting fit were his hallmarks.

This image is from a looping video in the Bohan section of the Exhibit. Classic coats with coordinating dresses is what I think of during the 1960s, and Bohan was a master of such.

And here the models show the dresses beneath the coats.

Long printed faille evening dress, Fall-Winter 1971. The placement of the stripes is so well executed, leaving the top of the shoulders in black.

And here is Bohan’s sketch of a similar dress.
The supporting documentary materials in the Exhibit gave another layer of interest to it.

In 1989, the Italian designer Gianfranco Ferre became the Artistic Director of the House of Dior.  After a rise in ready-to-wear in the world of fashion, Ferre was part of the revived interest in haute couture, and his designs are rich in color, ornamentation, and volume.  He stayed at the House until 1996.

Wool ensemble, Fall-Winter 1989. Doesn’t this look like the 1980s?

Long embroidered quilted lame dress and taffeta coat, Fall-Winter 1992.

Long printed organza satin dress, Spring-Summer 1995. The fabric in this dress is absolutely exquisite.

Printed chiffon dress embroidered with grass stalks, Spring-Summer, 1996.

John Galliano took over the helm in 1997.  Although still steeped in the precision and excellence of haute couture, Galliano became known for flamboyance, foreign influences in his designs, and his own rock-star status.  And oops!  I am lacking photos of examples of Galliano’s work.  Never a fan, I read about every one of his works on display, but failed to concentrate on photos.

After the sometimes rocky tenure of Galliano, Raf Simons was a breath of fresh air.  He became Artistic Director in 2012, and although known for his minimalism, he followed the heritage of the House of Dior. His designs showed a new romanticism, a love of color, and the influence of some of the world’s best modern art.

Three-quarter length duchess satin evening gown, Fall-Winter 2012.

Two-piece dress, Spring-Summer 2015.

And here is Simon’s notebook, detailing this dress.

Wool tuxedo jacket and wool cigarette pants, Fall-Winter 2012.

After Simons tenure ended in 2015, the House selected its first female Artistic Director. Maria Grazia Chiuri arrived in 2016.  She is a great student of Christian Dior and her designs are freshly reminiscent of his.  She features flowers, excellence in construction, with an occasional nod also to the modernist artists of the 20th century.

Wool crepe skirt suit, Fall-Winter 2017. More red – I love it.

Tulle ball gown, embroidered with poppies, Spring- Summer 2017.

Are you exhausted yet? There is still so much more to come, but that will be in Part II.  And – I have some sewing that needs attention, too.  Imagine that!  To be continued, both the Exhibit and my sewing.

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Filed under Christian Dior, Fashion commentary, Fashion Exhibits, Fashion history, Uncategorized

A Navy and Red Plaid Skirt

The almost-finished Classic French Jacket hanging on my dress form must be getting a bit impatient with me at this point.  I switched gears and decided to give the Jacket (and me) a rest while I took on a “small” project.  I had purchased this merino wool from Promenade Fabrics last Fall.  It was a “remnant,” but one I knew would be ample enough for me to make a straight skirt.

What better month to have a red and navy plaid wool skirt than February, with its heart-colored hues and chilly temperatures?  And after the nubbiness of the French jacket boucle, I was ready for some soft, finely woven merino wool.  What is it about merino wool that makes it so lovely?  The description in Fairchild’s Dictionary reads: “High-quality wool yarn made from fleece of merino sheep, which has short, fine, strong, resilient fibers, and takes dyes well.”  ((Page 326, The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion, by Charlotte Mankey Calasibetta and Phyllis Tortora, Third Edition,  New York, New York, 2010.)  Made in England by Butterworth and Roberts, this fabric has all those attributes and more.

Plaids are always interesting to sew.  Obviously the plaid has to be matched, but as important is determining the placement of the plaid, both on your body and on the pattern.   Most plaids have a dominant color or block, and this is a good starting point.  With this particular piece of wool, I wanted to emphasize the navy rather than the red (even though the red is dominant).  I first thought the best way to do this was to place a navy block/stripe down the front middle of the skirt.  I quickly discovered this actually emphasized the red instead of the navy.  When I placed a red block/stripe in the center, the red receded, and I had the look I wanted.

I also wanted the reveal of the plaid on the front center of the skirt to match the reveal of the back center seam.  This enabled navy to predominate the side seams of the skirt, framing the front and back.  Perfect!

This shows the back vent folded back, but you can see the back seam is sewn so that the front center block and the back center block match.

One of the side seams.

I used Susan Khalje’s straight skirt pattern which I had already used last Fall, and which needed no alterations in my existing muslin. (YAY!)  While laying out the muslin pattern, I realized if I was careful, I would be able to save enough fabric to make a matching scarf.  That would also mean that practically none of this beautiful wool would be unused.

The scarf is 60″ long and 9″ wide. I fringed the short edges, to make a nice finish.

Here are a few tips I used for sewing this plaid skirt:

1) In sewing the seams together, in order to match the lines of the plaid exactly, I used my walking foot.  This helped to keep everything perfectly lined up and eliminated slippage of the fabric as I sewed.  (Forked pins are useful in this application, too, but I found the walking foot to be just about foolproof.)

2) Even though the front center of the skirt was easily discernable because of the placement of the plaid, I still marked that line with a running stitch.  I find that helps to eliminate mistakes!  That was the final bit of basting thread which I removed from the skirt when it was finished.

Here is that front center line, marked with a running stitch. You can also see the Petersham ribbon I used to stabilize the waistband.

3)  I angled the back vent out about 1/4 inch on each side to help it hang straight while being worn.

4)  I faced the waistband with the lining silk, which makes it comfortable to wear.

With much of Winter still to come, I suspect I will have numerous occasions to wear this wool skirt.  And now I can get back to that French Jacket with at least one thing to show for the year so far!

 

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Filed under couture construction, Straight skirts, Uncategorized, woolens