• Melissa Imari Alvarez

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams

This last summer I was able to fulfill a lifelong dream of traveling to Europe. A huge part of my agenda was to visit as many fashion exhibits as possible. I was lucky enough to [wait in a standby line early in the morning and just barely make the cut to] get into the "Dior: Designer of Dreams" exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. It was one of the most inspiring experiences ever, and the gallery was so beautifully curated. This post will mostly be photos- all taken by yours truly- because Dior's work truly speaks for itself. However, any sporadic text will be a mix of my own opinions or recounts from the day, whereas any text in italics will be excerpts from throughout the gallery. Hope you all enjoy. :)

The New Look

"Following the privations of the Second World War, the fashion world was hungry for something different. Dior's collection, with its nipped-in waists and full, flowing skirts delivered. Carmel Snow christened the style when she commented, 'It's quite a revolution, dear Christian. Your dresses have such a new look!'"

"In 1946 textile magnate Marcel Boussac was looking for a young designer to revive the old couture house, Philippe et Gaston. Dior was not interested at first. He wanted to set up a new fashion house under his own name.

Christian Dior was superstitious and often consulted clairvoyants. One day, amid negotiations with Boussac, he stepped on a metal star in the street. He saw it as a positive sign and picked it up. On 8 December 1946 Boussac and Dior created Christian Dior Ltd at 30 Avenue Montaigne, Paris.

Dior would forever associate the star with the good fortune that led to the founding of his house. He later presented copies of it to staff as a reward for excellence."

The Dior Line

"I think of my work as ephemeral architecture, dedicated to the beauty of the female body."

- Christian Dior, 1957

"Christian Dior designed this dress specially for the 21st birthday of Princess Margaret, the younger daughter of George VI. Embellished with goldent straw embroidery, the dress was an adaptation of the Matinée poétique design from his Spring/Summer 1951 haute couture collection. Cecil Beaton photographed the princess in the dress for her birthday portrait."


This section of the gallery focused on the historicism reflected in the Dior house. Throughout the brand's lifetime, and between several designers, there have been collections that draw from historic periods, ranging from the Belle Epoque to the grand Versailles fashions of the 18th century.

Dior loved to travel and drew inspiration for many of his collections from the places he had visited. Many of his successors followed suit, so this room paid homage and took visitors away to foreign lands including Mexico, Egypt, and India.

The Garden

For me, the Garden was the dreamiest room of the entire gallery. Paper flowers covered the ceiling and draped down the walls. The soft, purplish light combined with a delicate, twinkling ambient soundtrack made me feel like I was walking in a fantasy.

Designers for Dior

"In the world of fashion, to be chosen as creative director for Dior is a rare accolade. Designers at the House of Dior have been carefully Selected with an eye to their differing design approaches and how they will enhance and interpret the original ethos- often referred to as the codes- of the House of Dior.

Since 1957 the house has been led by six key creative directors: Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons, and Maria Grazia Chiuri. Each creative director has brought a new perspective. All have harnessed the unrivaled skills of the couture workshops or ateliers to recreate the Dior aesthetic for successive generations."

The Ateliers

"When Christian Dior set up his house in 1946, he hired three formidable women to help him run the ateliers. Marguerite Carré oversaw the distribution of designs to the tailleur (tailoring) and flou (dressmaking) ateliers.Dior's muse Mitzah Bricard also managed the millinery workrooms and Raymonde Zehnacker was studio director, 'holding the reigns of the business firmly in her grasp', according to Dior. These women oversaw the process of turning designs into finished collections."

"Once a design was selected, it was taken to the ateliers to be turned into a toile. This prototype garment, usually made in cotton fabric, allowed for the fit, construction and shape of the design to be checked. Once a toile was satisfactorily adjusted, fabric and embellishments were chosen, and the garment could be made, fit to a model and shown."

The Diorama

The DIORama was a fun room with various pieces from throughout the history of the Dior house- including garments, maquettes, sketches, and accessories- on display in rainbow order!

The Dior Ball

"A ballgown is your dream, and it must make you a dream."

- Christian Dior, 1954

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