In awe at the House of Dior

What can I say about the NGV’s House of Dior exhibition that hasn’t already been said? It’s one of the most eagerly anticipated shows in years, and on Friday morning I was lucky enough to be among the media who got an advance look.

Dior coutureDior couture NGVSpanning the 70 years of couture at the House of Dior, during which various designers took the helm, the range of looks is diverse: there’s subtle sumptuousness in the immediate post-war period pieces designed by Christian Dior himself, playful simplicity in the work of the-then young Yves Saint Laurent and all kinds of ’80s excesses thanks to Gianfranco Ferre and, later, John Galliano.

Dior MasaiRestraint was not a quality Galliano exercised much in his designs!Korean DiorThis Korean-inspired outfit had some gorgeous details that seemed quite DIY-able if you have some scraps of lace or doilies and bottles of fabric dye that need to be used up…

lace embroidery Dior

If you want to know more about how these effects are achieved, there are two petites mains (is that the correct term for the incredibly skilled artisans who embroider and embellish couture garments?) working in an “atelier” inside the exhibition, although I think they are only here for the first few days that the exhibition is open. I heard something to the effect that they’ve used their summer holidays to come out to Melbourne, and need to get back to Paris and their work for Dior pretty soon. Couture doesn’t get made by itself, you know!

Dior petits mains NGV

It’s quite possible that this jumpsuit by Raf Simons featuring openwork and sequins was made under their direction.Dior NGV Raf Simons

As much as all the embellishment of couture fascinates me, some of my favourite pieces in the exhibition were actually those devoid of any surface decoration whatsoever (crazy, I know).
These Marc Bohan designs from the ’60s have such a timeless quality about them and would be great to accessorise. I’m thinking lots of African beads or gold jewellery for this mustard yellow outfit…
… and a huge straw sunhat, bangles and espadrilles for this little black number.Marc Bohan Dior

Signage from the Christian Dior parade at David Jones, Sydney, August 1948 Courtesy Christian Dior

Apart from the couture creations themselves, there are sketches and ephemera from the Dior show that was staged at David Jones, Sydney, in 1948 – yes, somewhat hard to believe, but Dior chose to show a complete collection all the way out here in Australia just a year after launching his brand.Dior sketch

Here’s me trying to look even 1% as chic as some models arriving in Sydney for a showing in 1957 (and failing miserably!).

Dior models

At the media preview, the CEO of Christian Dior Couture, Serge Brunschwig, related in his charming French accent how surprised his staff were a few years ago when the NGV proposed this exhibition in celebration of Dior’s 70th anniversary, expressing wonder that people so far from Paris had already started planning for an event that the Dior team themselves hadn’t thought about yet. He seemed genuinely humbled that Dior is even on the radar of us Antipodeans. But as if we could ignore one of the most feted fashion houses in the world! Anyway, enough from me. Go and see it for yourself and find out what everyone is raving about.