Lonely Planet Writer

V&A set to host the largest ever Christian Dior exhibition in 2019

In February next, the V&A London will stage the largest exhibition ever staged in the UK on the House of Dior – the museum’s biggest fashion exhibition since Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty in 2015. From 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.

Écarlate afternoon dress, Autumn-Winter 1955, Haute Couture collection. Image by Laziz Hamani/Victoria and Albert Museum

Based on the major exhibition Christian Dior: Couturier du Rêve, organised by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, the exhibition is reimagined for the V&A. A brand-new section explores, for the first time, the designer’s fascination with British culture. 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. His first UK fashion show took place at London’s Savoy Hotel, and in 1952 he established Christian Dior London.

Princess Margaret 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 3 November 1954. Image by Popperfoto/Getty Images

The exhibition also focuses on Dior’s most notable early 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, generously on loan from the Museum of London following conservation work. The exhibition also brings to life Dior’s spectacular fashion shows staged in the UK’s most luxurious stately homes, including Blenheim Palace in 1954, of which several ensembles are now in the V&A’s collection.

Pérou short evening dress, Autumn-Winter 1954 Haute Couture collection. Image by Laziz Hamani/Victoria and Albert Museum

Drawn from the extensive Dior Archives, the exhibition presents over 500 objects, with over 200 rare Haute Couture garments shown alongside accessories, fashion photography, film, vintage perfume, original make-up, illustrations, magazines, and Christian Dior’s personal possessions.

Christian Dior with model Lucky, circa 1955. Image by Courtesy of Christian Dior

From global travel to 18th-century decorative arts, the show reveals 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 shows how each successive artistic director has stayed true to Dior’s vision of Haute Couture, while bringing their own creative sensibilities to the House.

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. Image by Popperfoto/Getty Images

Oriole Cullen, Fashion and Textiles Curator at the V&A, said: “In 1947, Christian Dior changed the face of fashion with his New Look, which redefined the female silhouette and reinvigorated the post-War Parisian fashion industry. The V&A recognised Dior’s important contribution to design history early-on in his career, acquiring his sketches and garments from the 1950s
onwards.”