In 2017, the Musee des Arts Decoratifs of Paris, hosted a 6-month exhibition to celebrate 70 years of Dior. Since that time many cities around the world have held similar exhibits honouring “Christian Dior, Designer of Dreams”.
I was fortunate to see the exhibit at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary with my daughter. This was a much smaller exhibit than many of the others, unique in that the gowns and daywear presented were from the period 1947-1957 when Christian Dior was the only designer for the House of Dior. The 40 garments featured in this exhibit were donated to the Royal Ontario Museum by Toronto socialites.
Along with the beautiful gowns, dresses and suits, the Glenbow Museum included accessories (handbags and shoes worn with the fashions featured) as well as Dior perfume.
Christian Dior was born in 1905, in Granville, on the coast of Normandy, France. He moved to Paris as a young man and began his artistic career as an art gallery owner. At the time of the Great Depression (in 1937), he was forced to close the gallery. Soon after he began his career as a fashion designer for Robert Piguet. During WWII he worked for Lucien Lelong along with Pierre Balmain designing dresses for French collaborators and the wives of Nazi officers.
After the war, in 1946, he started his own fashion brand opening at, #30 Rue Montaigne; this location is still the heartbeat of Dior. His first collection, S/S 1947, referred to as the “New Look” by the fashion press, was a drastic change from wartime austerity. He used yards and yards of luxurious fabrics, creating a new silhouette…very feminine and figure flattering for women…who he loved.
“After women, flowers are the most divine creations.” ~ Christian Dior
By the time Dior died, only 10 years later in 1957, he had revolutionized fashion design bringing Paris back to the heart of the fashion world.
Dior’s love of the houndstooth check pattern (mostly used in British menswear at the time), is evident in his daywear suits and most notably in the design of the “Miss Dior Originale” perfume bottle. The perfume, comprised of 350 ingredients, debuted alongside Dior’s first runway show in 1947. It was named for his sister, Catherine, who worked with the French Resistance during WWII. Sadly she was captured, tortured and sent to a concentration camp before returning to Paris after the liberation.
***Unfortunately, Miss Dior Originale perfume, my favourite, is almost impossible to find today. In 2012, the scent was rebranded, now available only in Eau de Toilette. Although the new formula is reminiscent of the “Originale” it lacks intensity…the sensual, delectable “sillage” that lingered long after you were gone…
Sillage, the degree in which a perfume’s fragrance lingers in the air when worn…
This swing jacket is a 1948 Dior design, in a houndstooth check.
This houndstooth check scarf is part of the current 30 Montaigne Collection.
I was hard-pressed to pick a favourite from the exhibit shown at the Glenbow, however, this one (pictured) won me over. It is called “Cachottiere” meaning secretive. The halter top was cut in one piece with vertical and horizontal darts artfully placed. Pockets on the skirt were tucked into the side inseam. It was elegantly styled with a simple leather belt and full-length gloves. This timeless ensemble was part of the S/S 1950 collection (the year I was born!), and I believe if worn today would not look out of place!
This timeless quality was also evident in the evening wear. Many were embellished with exquisite embroidery, others were classic in design and would easily be the envy of anyone walking the red carpet today.
The inside construction of many of the early designs (corsets, waist cinchers, boning, petticoats) enabled most women to wear a “Dior” by holding the body in all the right places without any further underpinnings.
This dress is from the 1950s.
This dress is from the current collection.
Another example of timeless style. Which one is from 1947?
What more can you say about black …