Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns
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Dior Haute Couture: a Magical Fashion Exhibit in Paris

Perhaps the most memorable thing that happened on my recent trip to France was the Dior Haute Couture exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. It was honestly one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had in a museum  and is far and away the most impressive fashion exhibit I’ve had the opportunity to see. I was covered in goosebumps for most of it, eyes gaping open, face pressed against display glass, constantly setting off the alarm that was tripped if you got too close to the garments that weren’t enclosed.

Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case PatternsDior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns

First of all, the exhibit was MASSIVE. It just went on and on and on, each room more awe inducing than the one before. Over 32,000 square feet of fashion history in one building; the heart stops. It exhaustively captured the legacy of Christian Dior, both as a designer and a fashion house. While I’ve always gravitated more towards Balenciaga as a designer, Dior was profoundly influential in terms of more “conventional” ideas of femininity. He was responsible for redefining our entire fashion aesthetic in the post-war years, and each successive designer who has taken over the house has had their own powerful vision for what womanhood looks like in their particular day and age. This show covers it all.

After a detailed history of Dior’s life and early history as a gallerist, the exhibit opens with displays themed by colour. Huge cases lined the walls, filled with illustrations, jewelry, make-up, shoes, bags, perfumes and tiny scale recreations of some of their more iconic designs. These photos aren’t terribly well lit but they give you a good idea of just how wide and deep the Dior lens goes. The small scale dresses slayed me; what a fun job to make them!

Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case PatternsDior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns

DIOR COUTURE: FLORAL INSPIRATION

In one of my favourite rooms, the gowns were all inspired by flowers and plants; Dior was apparently an avid gardener. Walking into this space was a real “OMFG I AM DYINGGGGG” moment.

Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case PatternsDior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns

Other themed rooms followed. John Galliano was probably the most referential; his shows always had really over-the-top ideas that generated a lot of attention, but personally I much prefer the work done by Raf Simons, who headed the house from 2012-2015. His designs were modern and original while still being very “Dior”, with a purity of design intent I find very compelling. Here are some looks I liked; it should be pretty easy to spot the Galliano.

Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case PatternsDior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns

Some more beauties. The yellow gown below was one of my favourites (Raf, naturally).

Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns

Oh wait, not done yet!

Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case PatternsDior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns

At this point my head was swimming and I was walking around in a daze, like how  this is all possible, and the world is a magical place filled with wonder, and how am I ever going to wear real clothes again… and then I hit the muslin room.

DIOR MUSLINS & TOILES

During the design process, the designer submits sketches to the real heart of any fashion house, the atelier. This is where the real work gets done. Before any design is replicated in fashion fabric, its mocked up in muslin to test scale, proportion etc. They had an enormous room filled floor to ceiling with these muslins. I almost started crying.

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The profound skill, craftsmanship and talent in that room was mind-blowing. Stripped of ornament to the barest bones, the ideas were the star. As if the exhibit wasn’t delightful enough, they had one of the craftspeople from the atelier working on site. I think it changed up a few times (someone told me they saw leather bags being made) but I was mesmerized as I watched her beading fabric for an evening gown. You can see the video I shot here.

Dior Haute Couture // Christian Dior, Couturier Du Reve at Les Arts Decoratifs // Closet Case Patterns

I could say a lot more about this wonderful exhibit but I think these images speak for themselves. If you have a chance to see it, it’s definitely worth a trip to Paris; it runs until January 7, 2018.

Who is your favourite couturier? And what was your favourite look from the exhibit?

 

  • Jenna Sprague

    I feel like I wouldn’t be able to speak in the presence of all that beauty! And now I feel like I must pull out all my muslin garments from the depths of my closet and proudly display them in my home!

  • Johanne

    Thank you Heather for such a wonderful “compte-rendu” of this fabulous exibition and the wonderful pictures. I saw a few of those at the “Golden age of Haute Couture 1947-57” in Quebec city a few years ago and I will never forget it. I have this one on my Pinterest board since a while. I hope I can make it before it’s gone since I was planning on going to see the Balanciaga exibition in London at the V&A, before it ends in february. Thanks again!

    • I hope you make it! There’s a fun exhibit on Expo 67 fashion right now in Montreal, and I think a Gaultier exhibit at Musee des Beaux Arts!

      • Johanne

        Thanks for the info! I wanted to go see Revolution at the Beaux-Arts, wich is a V&A exhibition but I didn’t realize Jean-Paul Gaultier was there too! I saw the Expo one but I was somewhat disappointed. I’m a member of the McCord and I usually love what they do!

  • Elle

    Glorious–and overwhelming! Thank you for sharing.

    • Exactly how I felt about it; overwhelmed!

  • Rebecca

    *swoon!* Do you happen to know if/what book is being sold, sewing these beautiful photos on exhibit? I love the Museum books that they make for the exhibits, when it comes to Fashion. I couldn’t find anything on the site, so curious if you’d found anything.

    • They had a few great books! I wish we weren’t in tourist mode that day, it was too heavy to lug around so I didn’t end up buying one 🙁

  • my jaw is still on the floor….. amazing – thank you for sharing all those pics,

    • That’s how I was for three hours looking at it haha

  • Samantha Molloy

    This looks incredible! I can remember feeling much the same when I visited the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A in London a few years ago. It took my breath away and I could have cried it was so wonderful.

    • I am absolutely heart broken not to have ever seen that….

  • Lisa

    Thanks for sharing! It’s so amazing to see your pictures of the exhibit! Sounds like it was really brilliantly done. How inspiring. I often, but not always, like Valentino. I think I need to check out a book on him to see if I really like his work or if only a few things have caught my eye. I also find Ralph Lauren interesting.

    • Valentino is great, but he definitely designs with a particular woman in mind. It’s very specific. The red though! Can’t beat that Valentino red!

  • Connie J Turner

    Thanks so much for the pics. I’ll bet in person this was really astounding.

  • Dara Harper

    BEYOND WORDS!! Thank you!

    • I had lots of words but they were mostly swear words muttered under my breath while I was there 😉

  • Emma Harney

    Ahhh looks wonderful! Have you seen the film Dior and I? It’s about Raf Simons’ first collection at Dior. He only has eight weeks to produce it! 🤤 There’s heaps of atelier footage and they are marvellous. These down-to-earth, super talented women who come across as the real stars of the show. It’s a must see for you if you’ve not already seen it!

    • I love that movie SOOOO much! He’s such a quiet, calm presence and the atelier looks like heaven to me…

  • Charlotte Elliott

    Wow the flower room looks just exquisite! That hours of work that must have gone into those gowns is just mind blowing.

    I won’t get to see the Paris exhibition but a (much smaller) Dior exhibition celebrating 70 years of Dior as a fashion house has just opened in Melbourne (Australia) and I can’t wait to go and visit that.

    • I’ve hears its great if on a smaller scale. they have atelier workers there too!

  • That white gown with flared back and thoes poofy belle sleeves!
    Where is my prince so I could marry him in it?! oh yeah, on the couch watching cartoons….

    The country I am from and work at…. designers here expect you to do all that fine work for pennies. I know, bc I learned it the hard way.

    But I love all the old houses…Dior, Chanel, Givenchy, Vuiton…I mean, WOW! I wonder if the world will ever see a generation of couturiers who will redefine innovation…

    • Its possible with all the huge technical advances we’re seeing! I love all the crazy 3D printed garments we’re seeing now.

  • Natasha Friegang

    My favorites are the black and white tweed dress towards the end with the little bow in the front and accentuated back. I also love your yellow dress favorite. The colors! The pleating! I love this post so much. I shared it on my FB page and the sad thing is that none of my friends sew, and they won’t get it. Oh well. I do.

    • I love that B&W one too!! Sounds you like you need to find some good sewing FB groups 😉

  • Elizabeth A

    Holy crap! That’s all I have to say.

    • That’s basically all I said for three hours, under my breath. But less polite than “crap”.

  • Suzie

    Breathtaking! And so beautiful! Amazing workmanship. He truly knew how to dress women. (Sigh)

  • GorgeousThings

    Each designer has brought something new and different, but I think if I had to choose just one, it’d have to be St. Laurent. There’s also a floral dress designed by Marc Bohan that I’ve seen in books on Dior that is one of my all time favorites. Thank you so much for the pictures! Now I have to start plotting a trip to Paris before this closes.

    • This might be total sacrilege, but YSL doesn’t “speak” to me all that much, although his 70s stuff I like quite a lot. Maybe I have a much more emotional reaction to other designers. Having said that, I loved the Marc Bohan era! Gorgeous gorgeousness.

  • Paula Liss Hoste

    Hi Heather! Do you know if tickets need to be purchased in advance? Or is same-day ok? I’ll be in Paris next month so when I first saw your Instagram posts about this exhibit I about DIED. Thanks!!

    • I bought same day! Just don’t wait in line. Or buy an extra ticket for your bf who decides not to go and then try and sell the ticket to someone waiting inline and then get grifted when they secretly get out of paying you for the ticket…..

  • Sharon

    I’ve just returned from Melbourne to see the Dior exhibition last weekend and it is interesting that a few of the dresses are in both places. The Paris exhibition has so much more in it but we were lucky to see 2 craftspeople from the atelier working on a Bar Suit Jacket and also demonstrating had worked buttonholes, it was so mesmerizing to watch.

    • Wow, what a production to have two exhibits simultaneously happening!!! I’m jealous you just to see those buttonholes…

  • Madeleine Vionnet! I love to sew on the bias and for inspiration I always drag out her coffee table book. Was she represented there too? I hope so! Thank you for this wonder post Heather Lou – it was a delicious start to my Monday I must say 🙂

    • No Vionnet in teh Dior exhibit but I loooooooe her too! I need to find that book! 😉

  • emilyaudette

    Thanks so much for sharing! I am going to Paris next month and never would have discovered this if you hadn’t posted! Can’t wait to see it first hand!

  • I love the muslinsbas finished looks themselves! Thanks for sharing!

    I don’t have favourite couturier. I like the variety 🙂

  • Rhonna Jerauld

    oh my lord, i didn’t think i had much interest in dior other than respecting his part in history but GAH. this was gorgeous. thank you for sharing so much! oh, and i adore elsa schiaparelli (and vionnet, my momma gave me that very book when i graduated from design school! ooh and betsey…. ok i’m done haha) ❤️