Siobhan Taylor takes a look at the rich history of Dior, one of the world’s most prestigious couture houses, and it’s unique affinity with Australia.
There are few names in fashion that have had as lasting an impact as Christian Dior, who opened his eponymous fashion house in 1946, having previously worked as a fashion illustrator and designer alongside the likes of Pierre Balmain. It was Christian Dior’s insightful approach to the female form that would spark a renaissance of French couture, and become the start of a fashion empire that would change the face of couture. From dramatic evening dresses to sweeping ball gowns, Dior’s experimentation with volume, form and silhouette, most notably seen in the iconic New Look silhouette of the 1950’s, revolutionised women’s fashion. Beloved by grand couturiers, critics, members of royalty and aristocracy, and Hollywood, Dior was an artist in a time when the world craved beauty.
“We were emerging from the period of war, of uniforms, of women-soldiers built like boxers. I drew women-flowers, soft shoulders, fine waists like liana and wide skirts like corolla,” Dior said.
To celebrate the emblematic work of Christian Dior and the 70th anniversary of the House of Dior, the national Gallery of Victoria has played host to The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture, the largest Dior retrospective to be held in Australia, and potentially the 156-year-old Melbourne gallery’s most successful fashion exhibition ever.
The exhibition showcases the history of the prestigious fashion house from its establishment in 1947 until today, highlighting the brand’s evolution over the last 70 years. Featuring over 140 stunning garments as well as display sketches, photographs, and other archival material, the exhibit celebrates the work of the seven designers who have played key roles in shaping Dior’s place in history: Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri, who joined the house last July as the first woman to head the couture house.
The House of Dior has a particularly unique affinity and relationship with Australia, wherein David Jones was host to the historic Spring 1948 fashion parade that was the first complete Dior collection to be shown outside of Paris. And again in 1957, weeks after the passing of Christian Dior, Dior house models flew to Australia to present 83 looks from his final collection in a series of runway shows. With some Dior designs actually being named Melbourne, Sydney, and Australie, this clear thread between Dior and Australia is significant in the way Dior has shaped Australia’s own fashion identity and evolution. As one of only three cities in the world selected to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the fashion house, Melbourne, alongside Paris and New York, the exhibition is a stunning celebration of the enigmatic and transformative designer, Christian Dior, and it’s undeniable lineage within Australia.
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