If you haven’t already heard, Dior: From Paris to the World is currently exhibiting in my hometown of Denver, Colorado — and it will be the only place in the U.S. to house the show! I’ve been anxiously waiting to see this exhibit come to life.
I recently attended the show alone, since a friend was not able to attend the preview that day. It was cold and rainy outside, which made it the perfect time to see such an exciting event indoors. I thought it was very interesting for me to see the show by myself, and I think I retained more of the details since I could really concentrate on the entire show.
I saw over 200 couture designs, as well as videos, sketches and dozens of great photographs. The curator, Florence Müller, did a beautiful job articulating many designs in her audio review.
The fashion house of Dior was first founded in 1947, after World War II, and the exhibit’s first display showed the “New Look” of their initial couture garment from this time period. The piece is very tailored, but with a softness and a feeling of femininity — hopeful that women were longing for that femininity after the war.
Although the design looks simple, the intricate shaping and details make it iconic and revolutionary for its time. Not everyone was happy about the turn of this kind of fashion after the devastating war, especially since it was a luxury collection available only to the wealthy during a time of rebuilding for the world.
Fast forward to today, and this look has been the inspiration for the future designers of the house. The exhibit featured an updated dress modeled after the original New Look from 1947, with new details adding a soft, yet strong sense of tailoring to create a feminine look. The pleated sleeves are creatively attached at the shoulder, the waist is softly defined and the contrasting pleated skirt is alluring and feminine. As you can see in the image below, there’s even a beautiful headpiece to go with the look, created by Stephen Jones of Dior — who I was fortunate enough to hear speak at this event before the show opened!
Yves St Laurent was Dior’s protege at the time of his death and became the head designer, and each time I walk through the exhibit (to date I have attended four times), a quote from him resonates with how I interpret what I design:
“Being a fashion designer is to make women attractive by taking into account their body, their gestures and their attitudes.”
Having this exhibit at my fingertips has enabled me to understand what I set out to do in my own small way over 40 years ago. I love to help women feel beautiful by expressing how they feel when they wear a beautiful design — made especially for them.
Below are a few photos from the exhibit (on the left) alongside of some of my own designs (on the right). We are all heavily influenced by our surroundings and other people. Seeing this exhibit helps me feel that I am on the right track. My blue gown has hand made 3D embellishments. My stylized bow (bottom right photo) is placed stragetically at the center back neck. There are many details in the garments displayed that I have learned from and I trust my memory will somehow incorporate something from this exhibit in my future collections. I appreciate always learning something new. You can even check out some of my latest lifestyle fashion designs here!
My favorite room from the exhibit was the flower garden. Dior and his predecessors loved flowers and gardening and it’s apparent in the clothing designs. Not only was I overwhelmed with the elegant garments, but the mannequins even looked like they were floating on an invisible display. I can’t imagine the work it took to get each detail perfect when setting up this show. Needless to say I floated out of this room with a huge smile on my face.
Take a look at this video which features how the dresses were transported and set up for these magical displays:
The Dior exhibit is a learning experience that all ages and genders can relate to. After all, as the curator Florence Müller explains in the audio:
“Fashion is a form of art that deals with human beings. This is what makes it unique among the arts and makes it so challenging. The body is a shape that is restless, always moving, always changing, just like the imagination of the couturier.”
There have been moments in my 40+ year career when I’ve been told that my clothes are, “too much fashion and not enough fantasy.” I found that to be quite a challenge as I believe that art and fashion go hand in hand no matter if it’s fantasy, reality or a little of both. This exhibit confirms my belief.
I can’t wait to go back, time and time again, until the show ends after March 3rd. If you’re hoping to visit the exhibit, head on over to the Denver Art Museum’s website for more information.