By Crash redaction

Photo : Solitudine, title suggested : Solitude Fiançailles romaines. Mario Tozzi, 1931. Oil on canvas, courtesy of Centre Pompidou

In every corner, marvelous fabrics of surprising volume and detail bear witness to an art of extreme refinement that serves up a feast for the eyes. This is a spectacle of grandeur fit for an epic occasion: seventy years of haute couture from the House of Dior. Decades of style and expertise in haute couture span across 3,000 square meters of museum space—double the area usually given to fashion exhibitions at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. Organized according to theme and chronology, the retrospective retraces the history of the House’s founding couturier, and the series of interpretations offered by the renowned couturiers who continued his legacy: from Yves Saint Laurent to Maria Grazia Chiuri.

On display are more than 300 haute couture dresses, designed from 1947 to the present, including items on loan from collections worldwide. With most designs appearing in Paris for the first time, this is also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to discover unique pieces and marvel at the ingenious blend of motifs, colors, and shapes crafted by one of Dior’s most talented couturiers: John Galliano. His hybrid approach deftly integrates tradition and modernity in a way that defies all expectation and smashes every notion of unity and symmetry. Each piece retraces the brilliant renewal of Dior’s style, while accessory lines unfold before our eyes like landscapes for us to explore. Arrangements of hats, jewelry, bags, shoes, and perfume bottles emerge like still life paintings in monochrome, catching the viewer’s eye even from across the room. In addition, the exhibition highlights the connection of the couture house and its founder to all forms of art, by presenting a selection of furniture, objets d’art, and paintings, including Monet’s Le Jardin de l’artiste à Giverny!

For the first time, the haute couture house also offers the public a chance to step into the world of textiles and production. Studio canvases – works of technical and aesthetic value alike – envelop an entire room in a beautifully natural ecru to celebrate the art of cutting fabrics assembled in the couturier’s own studio. Capping off this homage to production, one of Dior’s own couturieres is present at the exhibition to eagerly share her experience with visitors. In this way, none of the fine crafts that make haute couture possible from behind the scenes goes forgotten in the exhibition.

By its sheer scale and the quality of the items on display, not to mention the inclusion of several hundred original documents, the exhibition devoted to Dior’s haute couture succeeds in bringing us back to the origins of couture and even fabric. As Régis Debray explained in an interview with L’Express concerning his Cultural Dictionary of Fabric: “We forget that text comes from textile, that fabric existed before writing, that meaning was not conveyed by words, but by fibers. There is intelligence in fabric.” An intelligence that is recognizable to everyone: that is the feat accomplished by Christian Dior and his couture house for the past seventy years.

Perpetuel motive. Man Ray. 1923-1971. Metronome and collage of pictures. (private collection, courtesy of Galerie 1900-2000)


Written by Stéphanie Bui.

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