The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture


The New Look, as US Harper’s Bazaar dubbed Christian Dior’s debut collection in 1947, remains one of the most instantly identifiable fashion moments to this day. Emerging after WWII, the former art gallery owner turned fashion designer burst onto the scene with a sharp, monochromatic palette, A-line skirts that extended from diminutive waistlines and pert hats. This look completely dominated the 1950s and ushered in a fresh era for women’s fashion.

Dior’s take was radically feminine, sculptural and dramatic, with padded shoulders and yards of fabric.

Indeed, he was inspired by architecture, stating, “A dress is a piece of ephemeral architecture, designed to enhance the proportions of the female body.” The US-wide women’s club, The Little Below The Knee Club took exception to the New Look, protesting the restrictive styles in Chicago with banners exclaiming, “We Won’t Revert to Granma’s [sic] Skirt.”

But celebrations will mark the 70th anniversary of the prestigious Parisian fashion house, with a display
of over 140 garments destined for Australian shores. Remarkably, this country was the first location outside of Paris to see a complete collection of Dior pieces in 1948, and so it does feel a little like the homecoming of a noble family member.

The exhibition also tracks the contributions of successive designers at the helm of Dior, including the incredibly young Yves Saint Laurent who took over after the founder’s rather sudden death in 1957. In a move that might have been approved by the Little Below the Knee Club, Maria Grazia Chiuri was ordained the first female head designer a year ago. As a nod to the shift in direction, in her Spring collection earlier this year, Chiuri sent models down the runway with t-shirts emblazoned with the instantly viral “We Should All be Feminists,” referencing an essay by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

The House of Dior – Seventy Years of Haute Couture
NGV International
27 August – 7 November

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