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. . .


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

30 responses to “Dior in Denver: Review of the Exhibition, Part II

  1. peggy

    Don’t you just love gorgeous “stuff”?

  2. Peggy Warren

    Pardon me while I locate my fainting couch!!!!! What a treasure trove of design, color, texture and finishes. Your descriptions are wonderful, as are your photos. Thank you so much for this update to your first posting!

    • I was just about in a swoon in the Exhibit! The innovation, the talent, the inspiration of all involved in the House of Dior is just mind-boggling. I could easily see the Exhibit again – if only!

      • Peggy Warren

        I told my husband about this and he said let’s go. We don’t have time to see it in Denver since it leaves in March but it’s coming to Dallas and since I live in Houston we will make a weekend out of it and so see all these lovely creations. We all need inspiration ❗️

      • Excellent! That’s what we did, made a (long) weekend of seeing the Exhibit and just having fun. I honestly could see this Exhibit again, and I am sure I would enjoy it all over again. I’m so happy that you have this on your agenda!

  3. Ohhmy

    I like Peggy’s “fainting couch” statement. EXACTLY–breathtaking! THANK YOU for making me take some deep breaths all the way through your post. Brings back some memories when I went through pattern drafting classes, trips to San Francisco/Los Angeles to work rooms, fashion shows and shopping.

  4. Cheryl

    Such a wonderful collection of Dior. Thank you for the images and descriptions. Yes please, I would love to see more of this.

  5. Heather Myers

    My favorites were the muslins too. I was in overload by the time I got to the miniatures. It was super crowded when I was there at Thanksgiving weekend. Interestingly, I heard many French speaking viewers that day. I live in Colorado.😀

    • Weren’t the muslins just amazing? You probably know this, but because the Exhibit has been so popular, it is being extended for two weeks. I believe they have had viewers from all over the world… Lucky you that you live in Colorado (although CO is a LARGE state, so maybe you had to travel some as well…) !

  6. Karen Barter

    Wonderful report. I’m flying to London to visit a Christian Dior exhibition at the V&A Museum. Different outfits but just as inspiring.

  7. susan snow

    Give us the next installment please! If I can’t get there in person at least I can vicariously enjoy this sensational feast for the eyes for we seamstresses! Thank you.

  8. Oh, one can only be left speechless after all these beauties! So much elegance. Thank you for sharing these with us.

  9. Lisa Fredericksen

    Karen… I’m getting ready to make a dress for my son’s wedding (I’m the Mother of the Groom) and I’m interested in your thoughts on sewing a lace over-lay for the dress. I think it would look more professional to sew the overlay separately with French seams, the pattern is a short sleeved shift dress with a high yoke, but I also know I could baste the two fabrics together and treat as one. Thoughts? I know you don’t have a forum for questions, but I follow your blog, appreciate your attention to detail and value your opinion!!

    • Hi Lisa, I have not sewn a whole lot with lace, but if I were making such a dress, I would definitely make the overlay separate. I would also find an online tutorial about sewing with lace – there are so many specific techniques to know and use. I think Bluprint (the old Craftsy) has or had a course on sewing with lace. But I am sure you could find several resources on this subject. Lucky you! Congratulations on your son’s upcoming wedding. (I would love to make a MOG dress one of these days!)

      • Lisa Fredericksen

        Thank you for your reply! One last question because I value your opinion. Do you always use sew-in interfacing? I took private sewing lessons many years ago (maybe iron-on interfacing was just being marketed) and my instructor made it clear that she thought that was “not for professional sewing”! Thoughts?

      • Well, I hesitate to say I “always” use sew-in interfacing, as I do use fusible for collars and cuffs for dresses which I make for my granddaughters! And I have used fusible interfacing in the two bathrobes I made, as I felt it would better stabilize the shawl collars and long front edges of the robes. But for blouses and dresses and coats, just about anything else, I use woven sew-in interfacing. Occasionally I need to stabilize a pressure point and I’ll use a tiny piece of fusible for that, but generally, it is sew-in for me. Hope this helps!

  10. Mary Marik

    Your description and photos are wonderful! Does the exhibit catalog cover the whole exhibit? Does it represent the exhibit well? Would it be a worthwhile purchase if I can’t go to the exhibit myself?

    • Hi Mary, I did not purchase the Exhibit catalog, mostly because of the weight and effort to bring it home on the plane, but it is available on Amazon – and through the Museum shop – and I may yet purchase it. I don’t believe it has all 200 fashions in it, but it certainly is a wonderful book, from what I can tell.

  11. I was at a Christian Dior exhibition in Paris the summer of 2017. It was amazing. I could easily see the exhibition again. I recognize a lot of the clothes on your photos. I enjoy watching your photos.

  12. John Yingling

    Thank you for sharing such a unique exhibition. It is a rare experience to see, in person, the actual creations of our legendary couturiers. A few years ago, Yvette St. Laurent had a showing at the Seattle Art Museum. I don’t remember how many times the proximity buzzers went off when I tried to examine, too closely, all the details of the displayed garments. Very frustrating for us sewers! I’m a couture handbag enthusiast, but I’ve never seen a cream leather bag emblazoned with a fierce, green Tyrannosaurus Rex ! Scroll back and find the Dinosaur Bag in the green section of accessories. Thanks again for sharing.

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