THE FASHION GALLERIES
The first half of the exhibition unfolds at the fashion galleries with a breathtaking backdrop projection on the museum’s wall outlining the façade of 30 Avenue Montaigne, the maison’s first store and headquarters. At the top is an oval medallion with a video loop of Dior runway shows, past and present.
“My dresses make a princess of every woman.” – Christian Dior As you walk up and enter the show, the first dress to stop you in your tracks is a “satan red” classic gown from 1947: wasp-waisted with a full, pleated skirt, this is the scandalous silhouette that women didn’t know they wanted at that time. It launched a new concept of luxury with its new lengths and new volumes. This “New Look”—so coined by then-editor of BAZAAR US, Carmel Snow—brought Christian Dior instant fame and made him an ambassador of a post-war ideal of hourglass femininity.
The opening rooms are biographical with spotlit perspex boxes containing the charming and very private mementoes of the designer’s life: his “lucky” gold star, photographs, tools, works-in-progress, fashion sketches for magazines, and letters he wrote to his father. There’s also a portrait of the designer on the cover of a Time Magazine in 1957 holding a giant pair of scissors, which he later referred to as a symbol of “a small bloodless revolution—made by the scissors rather than the sword ...”
“We were just a simple gathering of painters, writers, musicians, and designers, under the aegis of Jean Cocteau and Max Jacob.” – Christian Dior Then it moves quickly to his days as a gallerist—a room representing the art and friends that inspired him, including Salvador Dalí, Man Ray, Alexander Calder, and Alberto Giacometti. Ray’s Perpetual Motive and Dalí’s Retrospective Bust of a Woman are on display. In fact, there are approximately 100 art pieces (Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, and Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun among them) throughout the show. All these contextualisations of art, furnitures and other objets d’art with Dior’s dresses and designs in the hands of Gabet.
The themes thereafter fuse Monsieur Dior’s work with the designs by the creative directors who followed after his death in 1957: Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and the house’s current artistic director for women’s collections, Maria Grazia Chiuri. What’s impressive is that Dior’s original vision is so tightly preserved and meticulously transported through the times since his death, just 10 years after he founded the house.
“Colour may be used in touches if you wish to change the look of your clothes. An emerald scarf ... one brilliant red rose ... a sunshine yellow stole ... royal blue gloves.” – Christian Dior In another room, a “Colourama” theme paves a chromatic corridor of cream, dove grey, baby blue, teal, yellow, oleander pink, lilac, and purple. Here, you get a first glimpse of how the house has expanded its fashion approach through collaborations with milliner Stephen Jones, shoe designer Roger Vivier, and Swarovski (who created the Aurora Borealis crystal for Dior in 1956). In the glass display cabinets are shoes, hats, jewellery, perfume bottles, dresses, and miniature dresses grouped together according to their hues and arranged in the most elegant rainbow palette.
“Perfume is the finishing touch to any dress.” – Christian Dior Deserving its own mini exhibition is Dior’s love, adventures, and creations of perfume. As soon as he built the House of Dior, he knew it was not complete without a scent to match the complexities and confidence of the New Look woman. Monsieur Dior immediately set up a second company and launched his first fragrance and now a signature, Miss Dior.
Before Natalie Portman, Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren, and Giulietta Masina were faces of the now-legendary Miss Dior, there was only one woman that drove the inspiration behind the scent: Catherine Dior, the couturier’s beloved sister. She’s the original Miss Dior of Miss Dior, someone the couturier viewed as courageous, chic, and embodied the scent. Photos of Catherine and Château de La Colle Noire, where Monsieur Dior rediscovered the glorious scents of Provence, are displayed in this perfume-themed room. Also on display are iconic floral Miss Dior dresses: from the first one created in 1949 to Simons’s “pointillist” design and the most recent Chiuri embroidered creation.
The New Floral Declaration Just as the House of Dior experienced many revolutions over the seven decades, Miss Dior has simultaneously been racing ahead with its own reinventions. Since 2006, another important figure has entered the world of Miss Dior and that’s François Demachy, appointed perfumercreator at Parfums Christian Dior, who believe that “creating a perfume is like creating a painting. Everything starts with an idea.” Demachy’s latest reinvention of the 70-year-old Miss Dior creates an alternative vision of what Miss Dior might mean. Launched in September, the new Miss Dior is an ode to love. Portman, who has been the face of the scent since 2010, plays a Miss Dior very much in love in its new campaign. Set to the track of Sia’s “Chandelier”, the video asks, “And you, what would you do for love?” Portman says: “I would go to the end of the earth for love!” It’s a wink of sassy attitude while staying true to its elegant femininity. “From the moment it was created, Miss Dior was the fragrance of love, and a burst of life. This perfume was meant to embody the ideal of what a perfume should be: suggestive, mesmerising, and sensual,” says Demachy. The result is something of a new classic. It’s still a chypre scent—with the potent notes of blood orange, mandarin, and bergamot—and the Grasse rose and Turkish Damascus rose give it a vivacious floral sensuality. It’s unmistakably Dior but in a new way.
Dior’s colour palette, presented through dresses, accessories, and make-up elements, arranged alongside original illustrations by Rene Gruau and Mats Gustafson
The late Christian Dior
The Ateliers room, packed with the original toiles of hundreds of sculptural creations
Italian actress Giulietta Masina opening the limited-edition of Diorissimo EDP at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival
Dior Miss Dior EDP, RM595 (100ml)
The many potent scents from Dior House of Perfume, including its firstborn, Miss Dior, in 1947
Miss Dior travelling spray bottle from 1949