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6 February 2024

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the Victoria and Albert Museum

“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
The great and the good of the fashion industry gathered to pay homage at the alter of Dior yesterday, viewing the press preview of ‘Dior: Designer of Dreams’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was, as expected, utterly breathtaking.
The V&A’s biggest fashion exhibition since Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty in 2015, Dior: Designer of Dreams traces the history and impact of one of the 20th century’s most eminent couturiers and the six artistic directors who contributed to Dior’s success, and explores the enduring influence of the fashion house.
I was fortunate enough to view the Paris exhibition Christian Dior: Couturier du Reve, organised by the Musee des Arts Decoratifs last year – a glittering spectacle that remains fresh in my memory, and has provided the basis for this latest incarnation.
Dior: Designer of dreams celebrates the couturiers’ love of British design, and explores his creative collaborations with British Manufacturers from Dents (gloves) to Lyle & Scott (knitwear). If you’re thinking you have already seen the show having made the pilgrimage to Paris, you haven’t: the show boasts no less than 60% new content including several pieces that have never been on public display before.
Dior’s relationship with Britain remains a theme artfully woven throughout. There are 11 sections, all showcasing the exquisite skill and craftsmanship of the ateliers and successive designers from the House of Dior and notably, a brand new British section. Here you will learn about the designers most significant early British clients from author Nancy Mitford to ballet dancer Margot Fonteyn. A real highlight is a gown designed for Princess Margaret on her 21st Birthday, on loan from the Museum of London following conservation work.
The show reveals the sources of inspiration that defined the house of Dior’s aesthetic, from the daring designs of Yves Saint Laurent to (my favourite) the exuberance of John Galliano, and many pieces from Dior’s current artistic director (who also happens to be the first female) Maria Grazia Chiuri. The mannequins are further adorned with hats and headdresses created by Stephen Jones OBE, which adds further opulence to an already lavish show which is at times, so dazzling, you can be forgiven for bumping into your fellow visitors – as indeed I did with Stephen Jones OBE himself!
Fashionista or not, it is impossible to remain unaffected by this dazzling display. It is a wonderful opportunity to see the artistry of haute couture in close quarters, and marvel at the incredible structures and the embellishment of the garments, all by hand of course. Christian Dior set a standard for dressmaking that has rarely been surpassed, and created a legacy that still remains at the forefront of fashion design and craftmanship. Get your tickets while you can.
The exhibition Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams runs at the Victoria and Albert Museum from 2 February – 14 July 2019.
By Miranda Holder.