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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. . .
More on Dior
In re-reading my last two reviews of the Dior in Denver Exhibit, I realize how very little I was able to include, when there was so much to see and learn. Well, these reviews cannot go on forever, but there are a few other aspects and components of the Exhibit that I still want to share.
In one of the narrower passageways between Exhibit “rooms,” there was a display of Dior scarves lining each side. From the Dior Heritage Collection in Paris, these printed silk twill scarves were designed by Alexandre Sache between about 1958-1976.
The very bright graphic ones were so eye-catching:
And this engaging one with its impressionistic rose in the center was my favorite, I think:
You may have noticed in my first two reviews how many of the fashions, especially the early ones, were made in black. Dior considered black “the most elegant of all colors.” While they often do not photograph as well as other colors, these fashions made in luscious black fabrics commanded attention throughout the Exhibit.
I apologize for not having the attribution on this cocktail dress.
Also spread throughout the Exhibit were quotes from the various Creative Directors. Two especially caught my eye. The first, from Christian Dior himself, was one I had never read before. “The Americans are, by essence, impeccable.” Wow! What a lovely tribute to his stylish American clients.
And then there is this one from the current Creative Director, Maria Grazia Chiuri: “A dress can have some impact but a woman makes the difference with her attitude.” This quote needs no further commentary…
The Exhibit included so many supporting documents and written and printed materials, it was impossible to identify the most important. But I want to share this copy of Time Magazine from March 4, 1957, with Christian Dior on its cover.
Dior died the same year, 1957, on October 24th.
As Exhibit goers departed the exhibition space, there were paper punch-out Dior “handbags” for the taking:
Here is the reverse of this small bag, with punch-out puzzle pieces of the coat included! So clever.
After four hours nonstop in the Exhibit, I reluctantly departed from the Denver Art Museum to get a very late lunch, with intentions to return to the museum shop for a little browsing. Here I am upon my return, standing in front of one of the displays of books:
And here is the bag (I love bags!) which housed all those lovely purchases made at the Museum Shop:
Upon my return home to Pennsylvania, I was anxious to see what Christian Dior Vogue Designer Patterns I have in my collection of vintage patterns. Two are actually ones I purchased in the early 1970s, another time in my life when I was actively sewing for myself :
I made this coat when I was in my early twenties. I only wish I still had it!
I never made this pattern, but I may still do so.
And then there are these two, somewhat recent purchases:
These two patterns are earlier than the two above.
And yes, you do see a theme emerging if you consider these four patterns. They are all coats! (I am obsessed with coats…) Any guess what my current project is (after I make birthday dresses for my granddaughters)?
Filed under Christian Dior, Coats, Fashion commentary, Fashion Exhibits, Fashion history, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s
Tagged as Christian Dior, Fashion Exhibits, quotes about fashion, vintage fashion, vintage Vogue patterns