He was the man responsible for shaping modern fashion by creating the most influential womenswear silhouette of the 20th century. This spring, the V&A is staging the UK’s largest ever exhibition dedicated to Christian Dior.
Located just minutes away from The Egerton House Hotel, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, is the V&A’s biggest fashion exhibition since Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty in 2015. A journey through the evolution of the storied fashion house, from its inception in 1947 up to its present incarnation, the exhibition was inspired by a Dior showcase held at the acclaimed Musée des arts Decoratifs in Paris in 2017. Spilt into 11 sections ranging from The New Look to Diorama, the V&A’s stunning display is a tribute to the incredible skill and impeccable craftmanship of the House of Dior. As curator Oriole Cullen explains, ‘championing the artistry and craftsmanship of haute couture against a backdrop of ever-increasing mass manufacture, Dior combined astute business acumen and commercial opportunism with astounding creative talent.’
The exhibition also offers fascinating insight into Dior’s lasting relationship with Britain and the designer’s fascination with English culture and customs. ‘He loved the grandeur of the great houses and gardens of Britain, as well as British-designed ocean liners, including the Queen Mary,, says Cullen. ‘He also wore Savile Row suits. His first UK fashion show took place at London’s Savoy Hotel in 1950 and in 1952 he established his London business, CD Models, later known as Christian Dior London.’ Dior also collaborated with several British brands, including knitwear manufacturers Lyle & Scott and glovemakers Dents.
At the exhibition, visitors will catch a rare glimpse of Dior’s earliest designs for British clients like Nancy Mitford and Princess Margaret (including Princess Margaret’s stunning 21st birthday gown) and be taken back in time to the first fashion shows he staged in some of England’s most magnificent country houses, such as Blenheim Palace.
With over 500 objects on display, visitors to the exhibition will have the opportunity to view precious pieces from the Dior Archives alongside over 200 prized Haute Couture designs, illustrations, film, vintage perfume and original make up. There’s also plenty to discover regarding the legacy of the six Creative Directors who have been at the helm of the fashion house since Dior, among them Yves Saint Laurent and Raf Simons, and who have, as Cullen puts it, ‘stayed true to Dior’s vision of haute couture, while bringing their own creative sensibilities to the House to ensure it remains at the forefront of fashion today.”