BEFORE Natalie Portman lent her pretty face to Dior’s beauty campaigns, before Charlize Theron hushed “J’adore” for the fashion brand’s popular fragrance, and way before its creative director - John Galliano - was filmed slurring anti-Semitic rants in 2011, French designer Christian Dior was concerned about re-embracing femininity and luxury following the end of the hardship and rationing period of World War II.
In what is now an age of Miley Cyrus, Rihanna and any other lewdly liberal starlet, it is refreshing to take a walk through fashion history and see couture that was elegant and classy.
Dresses that revolutionised London and Parisian couture from Dior’s debuting year (1947), along with other key pieces have reached Manchester’s Gallery of Costume for a Christian Dior: Designer in Focus exhibition.
The gallery, a beautiful Georgian House, (somewhat out of place at the end of Manchester’s curry mile), proudly displays a small selection of Dior’s defining early work; including the Corolle or Figure 8 collection that had 1940’s women showing off their ‘waspy ‘ waists and hourglass figures.
The collection was dubbed the ‘New Look’ by Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief, Carmel Snow and even caused international controversy for its long, full flowing skirts that defied fabric rations, giving him the nickname ‘the tyrant of the hemlines’.
A new look indeed; throughout the gallery it’s more than evident that gone was the military matron, conservatively drab skirt suit from the war era and in its place was Dior’s vision of curve enhancing dresses, floor length gowns and outfits made for ladies of leisure and Parisian courtiers.
Other sartorial highlights in the exhibition include the dress commissioned by the Duchess of Windsor - a black 1956 silk cocktail dress that was retailed by the famous Manchester fashion store, Samuels. Also on display is a striking floral, silk cocktail dress designed by Dior’s apprentice and his later replacement chief designer, a 19–year old Yves Saint Laurent.
Following you through the Costume Gallery’s Georgian walls are Dior’s messages that celebrate the female form from his brief ten years at his eponymous fashion house before his untimely death in 1957.
In what is now an age of Miley Cyrus, Rihanna and any other lewdly liberal starlet, it is refreshing to take a walk through fashion history and see couture that was elegant and classy, but still sexy.
The free exhibition runs from Wednesday 12 June 2013 - Sunday 12 January 2014.
Opening times: Mon-Fri 1-5pm Sat –Sun 10am-5pm
Gallery of Costume, Platt Hall, Rusholme, Manchester, M14 5LL, 0161 245 7245
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