Well here I am in Paris at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs to experience and see the Dior Exhibition, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the creation of the fashion house of Christian Dior.
This picture is actually the back of Musée des Arts, more in fitting with a exhibition of style and fashion, so please pardon me for depicting this picture where you exit the exhibition, but Google Maps took me here via the front of the Louvre with its glass pyramid. (sorry, but it does look grander, the doorman directed me round to the front.
When I first saw came across a promotional video of the exhibition, It was at the opening party and at the exhibition with the current designer Maria Grazia Chiuri and featuring the models (Bella Hadid, Karlie Kloss) and Hollywood stars (Natalie Portman, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert Pattison) to name but a few. I thought I'd better get myself there quick, before the cold weather set in (it had been on since July 2017 and is on until January 2018). I was so excited and didn't hesitate to book a flight. #MariaGraziaChiuri
The exhibition is about the House of Dior, from it's founder Christian Dior through to the six couturiers who succeed him from Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons right through to the current and first female couturier Maria Grazia Chiuri. There are a selection of 300 Haute Couture gowns designed between 1947 to present day, #YvesSaintLaurent #MarcBohan #GianfrancoFerre #JohnGalliano #RafSimons with six galleries – Dior the galleries, Colorama, The Dior Gardens, The Grand Ball, Atelier Toiles and Dior after Christian Dior.
I was amazed that the entrance fee was only a mere €13, so I booked my ticket online beforehand.
Capturing some the highlights on a GoPro
After some of my students expressed wishes they wanted go see the exhibition themselves, but unfortunately couldn't. I thought it might be a great idea, to treat myself to a GoPro Hero 5 Action Camera to capture clips on video/ photograph and share this exhibition and my experience with you all. But I'm sorry to say that I've not really got the hang of how to upload the videos from the GoPro onto this blog, they seem to be too larger file size. (If anyone has any help or advise, it would be greatly appreciated, then I can share more via video). I'm pretty new to blogging, as this is only my third one I've done (so I'm a newbie to it all), but I've attached photographs for you instead.
Fashion Exhibitions I've also visited
I love a fashion exhibition. A few years ago I went to the V&A to see the Vivienne Westwood exhibition which was fantastic and also the 'Isabella Blow – Fashion Galore' collection of Alexandre McQueen / Philip Treacey at Somerset House in London whilst doing a Millinery course. You get so much inspiration and they get your creative brain fired up. It's not just the clothes at these exhibitions, it's everything – they way they display them, the music, the lighting, the noise, the atmosphere. I just love them.
The Musée des Arts Décoratifs opens at 11am, so I thought as I'd brought my ticket two weeks beforehand and the exhibition had been on a while 11.20am was earlier enough and I'd just walk straight in. I was mortified when I saw the queues (there were two), one about an hour long and the other (for pre-booked tickets) half-hour long, so I'd advise to get there early before the queues start.
Start of the Exhibition – The Dior Galleries
As you enter the Musée your ushered to the left, to a grand stone staircase, leading up onto something like the 2nd floor. To the right is a large hall with a central glass cabinet exhibiting the very famous 'Bar Suit' with Jacket made of Silk Shantung, over a black wool crêpe pleated skirt with equally famous collie-style straw hat, this became the most well-known of Dior’s New Look creations. #DiorNewLook #BarSuit. Dior helped to restore a beleaguered postwar Paris as the capital of fashion.
Each of his collections throughout this period had a theme. Spring 1947 Corolla (the French word for the botanical term corolla or circlet of flower petals) or Figure 8, The spring 1953 collection, dubbed Tulip. The House of Dior attracted glamorous clients including Ava Gardner, Marlene Dietrich, Princess Margaret and the Duchess of Windsor. Rita Hayworth chose an evening gown for the première of her film Gilda; the ballerina Margot Fonteyn bought a suit. In all Dior presented 22 collections. #circletofflowerpetals
The start of the exhibition focuses on the founder Christian Dior himself. There are a few photographs of him as a child with his family, a few documents, a little bit about his background, his love of art, nature and gardens. opening his art gallery and then becoming a fashion illustrator after it closed in the depression, onto how he started his own house in 1947. But not nearly enough for me. I was a bit disappointed there weren't pictures of him in his Ateliers, working with the seamstresses etc.
As this was the start of the exhibition it was so crowded and the traffic wasn't moving very freely. It was darkly light and extremely stifling, with not adequate air conditioning. I found it very uncomfortable to view the exhibits in these conditions, so decided to return at the end of my travels through the exhibition, that way I managed to get a few photo's for you.
Next you enter in a room with class displays featuring a collection of Mini Toiles, Shoes, Hats, Jewellery, Bags, full size gown or outfit, perfume bottles. Again this is too darkly light and stifling hot. I found this all a bit of a mish-mash (as there weren't any information signs with dates, who designed them etc. Here's some pictures so you can decide for yourself.
The Garden of Flowers (one of my favourites)
This was one of my favourite Galleries along with the The Dior Ball (Grand Hall). The gallery was brightly lit like an enchanted forest. From the ceilings there was an abundance of white foliage falling down onto the gowns. These had been painstakingly cut out of white card and looked extremely pretty and very impressive. The gowns were not behind glass displays, so you felt you were so up close to these.
The French designer’s love for nature, plants, flowers and designing gardens, was a passion he inherited from his mother, Madeleine. The beautiful gardens at his childhood home Les Rhumbs, the villa in Granville, were originally designed by Dior’s mother, Madeleine, who spent most of her life cultivating flowers, turning this hobby into a mission, using it to mask the sickening smells of Dior's fathers fertilisizer factory.
Dior loved flowers, nature and gardening, these fuelled his imagination and helped his creativity flourish. Before each collection Monsieur Dior would withdraw to one of his six properties for eight weeks where he would be surrounded by flowers, nature and draw alone. Dior's very first collection, presented on 12 February 1947, was Corolle (literally the botanical term corolla or circlet of flower petals in English). This first collection had voluptuous, soft silhouettes. These were feminine clothes with soft rounded shapes, narrow shaped bust, nipped-in waists, contrasting with full flowing skirts like a corolla and with hemlines below the knee. He wanted to make women feel like beautiful flowers. He declared I have designed 'flower-woman'. From then on flowers would be everywhere. Spring-Summer 1953 was the tulip shape, then SS54 the Lily-of-the-valley. He combined floral prints and embroidered or piqué flowers on dresses. His successors were also lovers of gardens and also designed many dressed with floral themes. See Lovely green Maria Grazia dress pictured with millions of feather quills to look like leaf fronds.
The Grand Hall – The Dior Ball (one of my favourites)
Christian Dior was a great lover of attending post-war Balls and Lavish Soirées and designed numerous gowns for the guests at these events. Ball Gowns are emblematic of the history of Dior. #TheDiorBall The finalé of the exhibition ends on a soaring note in a replication of an awe-inducing ball in Versailles's Hall of Mirrors.
I spent quite a bit of time in The Grand Hall of the exhibition, which is really quite grand. It's about 2 houses high, got a domed and vaulted ceiling. The walls appear to have a 3 floors, the top 'floor' has arches to portray a balustrade balcony with giant stone corbels in a Neo-classical style architecture. There are rows of stage lighting of the balcony. The next 2nd floor is slightly smaller, the ground floor is very plain.
My first visit to The Grand Hall was more of a scouring around it, but I then returned to take a longer look in more detail. The second time I managed to get a seat and could really take everything in. If I hadn't sat down (but I have to say I was pretty weary by then as I'd been at the exhibition a long time, so really glad of a seat), I'd have just looked at the beautiful gowns again and along with the crowds and just passed through. I wouldn't really have given myself time to – really soak up the full ambience, the lighting, how the exhibits were displayed, the story and all the other sensory things you just miss, because you're so focussed on the gowns.
As you pass through the hall you can't fail to miss the lighting changing in colours as it has a profound effect on how you see the detailing in the gowns, but you do just take it for granted a bit and don't give it much thought, which is a shame. The Hall appears to go on forever with clever mirrors covering both end walls, creating a optical illusion.
The Gowns are viewed in bright white light, then blue, then golden, the a greener golden colour and each colour enables you to see different and more detail in the different lights. But there's a lot more to it than that. You've really got to take your time and Look Up. If you don't look up and wait you would deprive yourself of ... all I can describe it as ..... is a spectacular show – a story. The lighting is absolutely awesome. Let me explain:
The Hall is very tall (about 2 houses high), with a vaulted slightly domed ceiling. The top 'floor' has arches, with a stone effect balustrade balcony held up by giant corbels in a Neo-classical architectural style. There are stage lighting off the balcony. The 2nd lower 'floor' is smaller (please see pictures). The light starts with a bright daylight white flooded onto the arches, but this is when the real spectacular begins..... designers fashion sketches are silhouetted into the arches. The the light changes them to windows with outlooks of Autumnal trees in golden hues with the lighting getting greener, then darkening, the surrounding walls change to a dark taupe colour and the outlook of Autumnal trees darkens to give the illusion of a renaissance painting. Single Cherubs appear in the slight domes within the ceiling growing into something like a Michael Angelo painting like on the roof of the cistern chapel. This begins to fade and the lighting turn more bright and golden. Falling little stars with sprinklings of moondust start to twinkle obliterating the central cherubs until the whole ceilings and walls are awash with masses of falling moondust.
The light then turns a bright, cold, icy blue as though in night vision onto the windows. The trees appear to turn wintery white, then it goes a dark and darker nearly midnight blue, see the Rihanna dress (pictured).
At one end the gown are displayed on terraces up the wall and the other end more or less at ground level with a array of gowns made and worn by celebrities and the like.
There's the Midnight Blue Chemise dress worn by Princess Diana, a dress worn by Nicole Kidman for the 2013 Cannes Film Festival designed by Raf Simons, a dress designed by Maria Grazia for Natalie Portman,
Monsieur Dior was highly superstitious, into Astrology, the tarot and a regular visitor to clairvoyants. Dior never began a couture show without consulting his tarot card reader. Maria Grazia also has an affinity with these things and The Tarot Collection was one of her first collections. This ecru silk taffeta dress worn by Emma Watson at the Elle Style Awards, where she was crowned 'Woman of the Year'. The magical dress looks like an entire story is being told with it's hand-painted and embroidered tarot, zodiac and nature inspired illustrations. #TarotDress
The Toile Room (another one of my favourites)
As you can see from the picture you enter this room to be confronted with a gallery of recesses reaching right up to the ceiling containing Atelier Toiles. For myself I loved to see this because you get a better idea and understanding of the construction of the garments. Some of the toile had black marker pen markings.
Within the Toile room their was one of the current Dior Ateliers behind a counter with a sample of the embroidered beadwork of the Maria Grazia dress pictured here. She was available to ask questions and showed us the inside of this dress so we could get a better idea of how it had been constructed and it's fit.
Dior after Dior
Here a selection of dresses by each of the 6 Couturiers who succeeded him.
Again this gallery was far too dark for me. I've played around in photoshop to lighten the pictures so that you can see the dresses better.
Anyone wishing to have a look at the accompanying book which I bought whilst there, please come along to one of my lessons and I'll let you have a look.
I hope you enjoyed my blog, I'd love to hear what you thought about it.