Last Sunday I took myself to the Dior exhibition at Les Arts Décoratifs which celebrates the 70-year anniversary of one of the most famous fashion houses in history. My interest was first sparked by a banner I saw at the metro, showing a woman wearing Dior’s famous bell-shaped top and a Vietnamese-inspired hat perched on her head. It was an exhibition that I had to see, and it was spectacular.
The exhibition had around 20 rooms, each with a distinctive theme. As I walked in, I saw a dark room with old photographs, letters, old documents, fashion illustrations and artefacts, which all had a connection to Dior’s life. I saw a timeline of his life, beginning with his childhood in the roaring twenties and continued into his adult life where he began his fashion career.
Walking into the next room, I spotted a sculpture by Salvador Dali. It was then I learned that Dior, at the age of 23, opened an art gallery from 1928 to 1934 where he handpicked his favorite paintings and sculptures to display, including Dali’s work. Dior’s fascination in visual arts had played an important role in his fashion career, since he drew inspiration from all forms of art. Paintings hung from the wall alongside the magnificent display of gowns worn by faceless black mannequins. It was as if Dior wanted to recreate these paintings by bringing them into life and projecting them onto beautiful gowns.
Not only was Dior inspired by visual arts, but also by the theatre. The ballet also played an important role in his designs, as he wanted to recreate the flowing curves and the nipped-in waist of the ballet costumes with his dresses. Dior wanted to be a composer as well as an architect, which was why the exhibition showed us the influences he drew inspiration from. The dialogue between art and fashion was constant throughout the exhibition, forging a strong connection between the two worlds.
The next room featured hundreds of dresses, shoes and accessories of the same color behind a glass display. I soon found that there were other colors that followed the one-color theme, each with its own sentimental value. In the room that followed, Dior’s oriental influences was shown to the public. I was stunned by the African, Chinese, Japanese dresses that were on display, demonstrating Dior’s admiration for dresses belonging to other cultures.
We were then transported to the urban setting of New York which mimmicked a minimalist art gallery with hundreds of stunning fashion photographs hanging from walls. In this room, we saw the work of John Galliano who carried on the Dior tradition as artistic director and behind the mannequins was a ‘behind-the-scenes’ video of how he launched the latest streetwear at the time in the 90s called Clochards. It was amazing how the urban and tradition magically merged together to give birth to a new Dior collection.
My favorite room towards the end of the exhibition, not to mention the room of white dresses stacked almost 20 feet high, was a ballroom inspired by the Hall of Mirrors at the Chateau of Versailles, featuring lavish ball gowns and sequined dresses, worn by royals and celebrities like Princess Diana and Princess Grace of Monaco. There were sparkles all around us which moved on the walls, and the lights changed its color from day-time to night-time.
All in all, in this exhibition the world-famous fashion that screams ‘haute-couture’ has finally been made accessible to the public, showing the hours, detail and hard work that is put into making a Dior collection. Dior’s early beginnings show us his influences which range from sculptures, furniture, paintings, the theatre, each played a part in making Dior dresses timeless and luxurious. It is definitely something worth seeing if you happen to be in Paris.