The fashion retrospective of the year has finally landed at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Reimagining the Musée des Arts Décoratif’s major Christian Dior: Couturier du Rêve exhibition from 2017, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams opens its doors tomorrow – bringing with it a spectacle of some 200 rare Haute Couture pieces, alongside vintage perfumes, accessories, illustrations and magazines.

“People will be blown away by some of the incredible creations,” Assistant Curator, Connie Karol Burks, tells us. “It’s quite rare that we, as normal members of the public, get to be up close and personal with Haute Couture garments. This exhibition allows us to appreciate the incredible skill and craftsmanship that goes into both the internal and external design; that is, the amazing embroidery that adorns the pieces, done by specialists in the Paris atelier.”

Spanning right back to the inception of the House of Dior in 1947, and documenting right up to the present day, this gargantuan exhibition explores the eclectic aesthetics and inspirations from all six artistic directors – Yves Saint LaurentMarc BohanGianfranco FerréJohn GallianoRaf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri – who have taken the reins and each imbued their distinct creative sensibilities over the decades. 

So, as a taster of what’s to come, we’ve done the impossible and cherry-picked the five standout looks that are not to be missed...

Bar Suit and Hat, Haute Couture, Spring/Summer 1947 by Christian Dior
Donated to the V&A in 1960, the ‘Bar’ suit is an emblem of all that Dior’s ‘New Look’ stood for: Sculpted shoulders, a nipped-in jacket with padded hips to emphasise a dinky waistline, and a long pleated woolen skirt. “It’s an object I’ve come to know quite well as its one of the most requested objects for the public to come and see at the museum,” says Connie.  

Mascarade Dress, Haute Couture, Spring/Summer 1958, Christian Dior by Yves Saint Laurent
Succeeding Christian Dior following his sudden death in 1957, a then 21 year-old Yves Saint Laurent – who honed his craft under Dior’s watchful eye – presented his idiosyncratic vision for the house from the get-go. With a loosely draped back, gathered below the shoulder blades and falling to the hem (designed to resemble something of the 18th Century sack-back dress), this ‘Mascarade’ dress showcased Saint Laurent’s signature ‘Trapeze’ line, which moved emphasis away from the waist.

Antinea Dress, Haute couture, Autumn/Winter 1965, Christian Dior by Marc Bohan
Dior’s longest-serving Creative Director, driving the House of Dior for 29 years through the huge cultural shifts of the 1960s and 1970s, Marc Bohan – in Connie’s words – is the “unsung hero” of the maison. “He was designing clothes that women love to wear: That was really his success,” she explains. In our opinion, the Antinea dress epitomises precisely that.

Haute Couture, Autumn/Winter 2004, Christian Dior by John Galliano
The most notorious designer of the bunch, John Galliano didn’t (and doesn’t) do things by halves. Tasked with whittling down his oeuvre to just the one garment, Galliano’s Haute Couture dress from 2004 caught our eye for its fantastical mix of references. Combining an exaggerated version of an 1860s corset with a dramatically draped skirt, inspiration was pooled from 19th-Century Empress, Elisabeth ‘Sisi’ of Austria, 1950s film star Zsa Zsa Gabor and 18th- and 19th-Century decorative arts.

Escaramuza Ensemble, Cruise, 2019, Christian Dior by Maria Grazia Chiuri
Since her appointment in 2016, Dior’s first female Artistic Director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, has placed huge importance on reflecting current issues through her collections – with a strong, feminist vision at the core of her creations. Reimagining luxury for a contemporary audience, the designer has proven time and again that she knows exactly what women want, and this cotton, tulle and embroidered number – complete with felt hat by milliner Stephen Jones – is no exception.

Dior: designer of dreams runs from 2 February until 14 July 2019 at The Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Rd, Knightsbridge, London SW7 2RL.

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