IT was such a joy to go to the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition. I’ve had flu, on and off, since Christmas, Brexit has been unravelling, I’ve been in the middle of books – there’s been a lot going on and much of it has been less than fun, sad to say.
But this exhibition was so glorious that it took my mind off everything, and even remembering it now is doing the trick of raising my mood significantly.
Strange that clothes can do this, and clothes I’m not even, let’s be frank, ever going to get to wear myself. But there is something about their staggering loveliness that makes them into works of art.
You might say that fashion is fickle, shallow, ephemeral – but there are designs here, from Dior’s first collection in 1947, that are completely wearable now, and this holds true across the decades. These clothes are fashion elevated to art. The level of detail in their construction alone is stunning; the embroidery, the pleating, the fabrics are all the loveliest in the world. The net effect of dozens of beautiful ballgowns in a room with twinkling lights and celestial music is to make grown women sigh with pleasure.
Everyone I saw going round the exhibition (and it is sold out) had a smile on their face. Some, adorably, had dressed up to come here, in their own Dior knock-off suits and with their Dioresque, or sometimes real Dior, handbags. I loved the idea of people bringing their Dior accessories to meet their maker.
Seeing what the various Dior designers had brought to the label over the years was very interesting. The only person whose clothes seemed less than flattering to women is John Galliano. Given the hateful views that saw him crash out of his job, it’s perhaps not such a surprise. Dior, it was clear, made affection for women his starting point and worked with, rather than against, the female form (though with perhaps an idealised view of the waist!). If other designers could take note, I’m sure we’d all be grateful.
Advance tickets for the exhibition are all gone, despite the extension until 1st September, although you can buy a limited number at 10am each day for that day itself. See the website for details. Members can get in at any time. I’d say splashing out on membership could be worth the money, if you think you’ll come to any other shows in the next year. There’s a Mary Quant show opening on 6th April which should also be fabulous, if you’re interested in fashion. And you get 10 per cent off in the gift shops, plus a really nice member’s room on the 5th floor with a good cafe. I’m not getting a commission, by the way 🙂