Anne here. I spent yesterday morning dazed and wandering vaguely (quite of my own accord) among crowds of other women, also dazed and emitting gasps and oohs and ahhs. And taking photos, lots of photos. Because we weren't allowed to touch.
I did notice several very elegant men in the crowd, making notes and taking photos, but most of the men I saw were lurking glumly in corners; here a father with an empty pram, there a husband visibly practising patience, on a bench a weary-looking fellow minding a handbag and a coat.
So where was I? At a fashion show — an exhibition celebrating 70 years of Dior fashion, in Melbourne, my home town, at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). (Click on the photos for a closer view.)
Melbourne (Australia) is one of only three cities in the world that were chosen to help celebrate Dior's 70th anniversary. The other two cities are Paris and New York.
Back in July, 1947, The Australian Women’s Weekly, the major women's magazine at the time, in association with the major department stores, ran a "Paris Fashions for All Parade" — 120 hand-picked fully accessorized French couturier outfits and four French models touring department stores around the country. It contained four Christian Dior original outfits from his debut collection in Paris in February that year.
Dior's "New Look" collection had a huge effect on fashion across the western world, revitalizing women's fashion after WW2, putting drab fabrics, rationing, padded shoulders and boxy, military-look outfits firmly in the past.
The "Paris Fashions" tour was such a huge success that the following year, in 1948 the first ever complete Dior collection to be shown outside of Paris — 50 original outfits, fully accessorized — toured Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide (state capital cities).
Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald at the time, Dior declared that “living in the sunshine of a comparatively new country unscathed by war, Australians have a cleaner, brighter outlook and are more receptive to new ideas than the tired people of European countries”. (Quote from this site.)
As well as the collection, Dior sent a large number of his staff, including seven of his mannequins (as models were called then) to model the clothes. Here they are, arriving in Australia, looking amazingly gorgeous after a gruelling 60 hour flight.
The collection caused such a sensation that The Weekly staged three more French fashion extravaganzas, in 1947, ’48 and ’49. In October 1957 Dior died suddenly, aged 52, of a heart attack, but the following month 83 of his creations were dispatched from Paris, and the Australian parades went on.
The vision and determination of two women helped foster that connection — Mary Hordern, the glamorous and well connected fashion editor of the Australian Women's Weekly, and Mary Alice Shiell, the fashion buyer for David Jones (a major department store). You can read more about them here and here.
Dior named some of his designs after Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide (state capital cities) and a number were called "Australie" and, according to an article I read on a plane recently (but didn't bring home), every one of Dior's collections since then have had at least one outfit named after some aspect of Australia or one of its cities. That really surprised me.
And thus the Dior Australian connection is explained.
I'm no fashionista, and dress for comfort rather than style, but I have to say, the display of fabulous clothes (not to mention shoes, and hats and other accessories) blew me away. The designers of the exhibition made clever use of mirrors, as you can see in this photo.
From one of the signs in the exhibition: "With every collection, Christian Dior introduced a new line, silhouette and series of themes, establishing a series of design codes that are now synonymous with the house. Revisited and recalibrated since his death, these codes were critical to Dior's creative vocabulary and have endured as part of the language of the house as expressed by subsequent creative directors. Four codes key to Dior are examined in this room; The New Look, the line, the flower and the eighteenth century."
The exhibition also featured the work of the major designers who came after Dior, working in the House of Dior, right up to the current one, Maria Grazia Chiuri, the first woman to become the head designer for Christian Dior.
There was a giant video running on the back wall, showing a recent fashion parade of Chiuri's clothes as a backdrop to one of the displays. The friend I went with thought these designs were stunning — clothes designed to move with women's bodies. You can get an idea of the video from the photo below.
Keep scrolling down . . .
Yes, I took heaps.
So, what about you — have you ever been to a fashion show? Are you even interested in fashion? (If you'd asked me, I'd have said no, but then . . . I was blown away by these.) Do you have a favorite among these dresses?