A Massive Christian Dior Retrospective Is Heading To London

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Christian Dior with model Lucky, circa 1955.
Christian Dior with model Lucky, circa 1955.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Christian Dior

“There is no other country in the world, besides my own, whose way of life I like so much. I love English traditions, English politeness, English architecture. I even love English cooking,” Christian Dior once said. And it’s a good thing, too, because in February 2019, the V&A will open the largest and most comprehensive exhibition on the House of Dior ever to be staged in the UK :  the museum’s biggest fashion exhibition since “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” in 2015.

_Jardin fleuri bustier dress, Spring-Summer 2017 Haute Couture collection. Christian Dior by Maria Grazia Chiuri. Dior Héritage collection, Paris.
Jardin fleuri bustier dress, Spring-Summer 2017 Haute Couture collection. Christian Dior by Maria Grazia Chiuri. Dior Héritage collection, Paris.

Photo Credit: Photo © Laziz Hamani

Spanning 1947 to the present day, “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams” will trace the history and impact of one of the 20th century’s most influential couturiers, and the six artistic directors who have succeeded him, to explore the enduring influence of the fashion house. Based on the major exhibition “Christian Dior: Couturier du Rêve,” organized by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, the exhibition will be reimagined for the V&A. A brand-new section will, for the first time, explore the designer’s fascination with British culture.

Princess Margaret (left), with the Duchess of Marlborough behind, presents Christian Dior with a scroll entitling him to Honorary Life Membership of the British Red Cross after the presentation of his Winter Collection at Blenheim Palace on 3rd November 1954.
Princess Margaret (left), with the Duchess of Marlborough behind, presents Christian Dior with a scroll entitling him to Honorary Life Membership of the British Red Cross after the presentation of his Winter Collection at Blenheim Palace on 3rd November 1954.

Photo Credit: Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images

Dior admired the grandeur of the great houses and gardens of Britain, as well as British-designed ocean liners, including the Queen Mary. He also had a preference for Savile Row suits. In 1947, he hosted his first UK fashion show at London’s Savoy Hotel, and in 1952 established Christian Dior London.

Écarlate afternoon dress, Autumn-Winter 1955 Haute Couture collection, Y line. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Écarlate afternoon dress, Autumn-Winter 1955 Haute Couture collection, Y line. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Photo Credit: Photo © Laziz Hamani

This exhibition will investigate Dior’s creative collaborations with influential British manufacturers, and his most notable British clients, from author Nancy Mitford to ballet dancer Margot Fonteyn. A highlight will be the Christian Dior dress worn by Princess Margaret for her 21st birthday celebrations, on loan from the Museum of London. It will also bring to life Dior’s spectacular fashion shows staged in the UK’s most luxurious stately homes, including Blenheim Palace in 1954.

French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent (1936 - 2008) in London, 11th November 1958. He is preparing for the following day's Dior Autumn collection show to an audience including Princess Margaret, at Blenheim Palace.
French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent (1936 – 2008) in London, 11th November 1958. He is preparing for the following day’s Dior Autumn collection show to an audience including Princess Margaret, at Blenheim Palace.

Photo Credit: Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images

Drawn from the extensive Dior archives, the exhibition will also showcase highlights from the V&A’s world-class couture collections, including the iconic Bar Suit, gifted to the museum by the House of Dior in 1960. The exhibition will present over 500 objects, with over 200 rare
haute couture garments shown alongside accessories, fashion photography, film, perfume, make-up, illustrations, magazines, and Christian Dior’s personal possessions.

Sketch by Christian Dior for model Londres, Autumn-Winter 1950 Haute Couture collection
Sketch by Christian Dior for model Londres, Autumn-Winter 1950 Haute Couture collection

Photo Credit: © Christian Dior

From horticulture to global travel and 18th century decorative arts, the exhibit will reveal the sources of inspiration that defined the House of Dior’s aesthetic. From the daring designs of Yves Saint Laurent to the rational style of Marc Bohan, the flamboyance of Gianfranco Ferré, the exuberance of John Galliano, the minimalism of Raf Simons, and Maria Grazia Chiuri’s feminist vision of fashion, the exhibition will show how each successive artistic director has stayed true to Dior’s vision.

The exhibit will run at the Sainsbury Gallery from 2 February – 14 July 2019. Tickets will go on sale in Autumn 2018.

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