I’m going to come clean here, I’m a major history nerd. I don’t know when it happened, because I hated history and was quite bad at it during highschool. But something changed after I graduated. During my return to university to complete my psychology degree, I took an art history course on a whim. What I learned and discovered during those four months changed my life, especially those lectures that centred around fashion.
I’m also a major museum buff. It’s usually the first thing I do when I travel to a major city – scope out the museums. My frequent trips to Toronto are usually pretty hectic. Crammed with meetings, photoshoots and events, I don’t have too much time for myself. The little time I do have though is spent at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)…one of my favourite places on Earth. I visit so often, that I am about to buy myself a membership as a “Happy Birthday to Me” gift.
I mean, DIOR. As in, the most beautiful haute couture in the world. As in one of the most celebrated fashion houses that ever existed!
When I received my invite to come view the exhibit, I won’t lie. I may have hyperventilated a little…and then thought to myself…what does a humble blogger wear to see couture frocks? I started to sweat.
Christian Dior can be credited with reviving the fashion industry after the Second World War. As people started to rebuild, the fashion industry began to flourish. Christian Dior saw this as an opportunity and began creating ultra feminine and beautifully cut designs that made “women feel like women again”. This particular exhibit focuses on that era – highlighting designs, accessories, jewelry and perfumes from the ROM’s extensive collection from the first ten years of Dior haute couture (1947 to 1957).
This highly curated collection also focuses on the House’s remarkable attention to detail and offers insights into the creative and physical process of the Parisian fashion industry during this time.
More Than Just Pretty Dresses
When I walked into the exhibit with my girlfriend, we gasped. While the exhibit is small, it has a major impact. Collections of gowns, suits, cocktail dresses, jewelry, shoes and perfumes were artfully arranged in a dimly lit room.
People walked around, most with mouths agape looking at these stunning pieces of history. In true Dom form, I got so excited and my heart swelled so much that my eyes started to well up.
The ROM is known for their well-curated exhibits that are not only informative but fun! All of the displays featured interactive screens which told of each pieces’ history, and how they were made.
Speaking of which, I learned that Dior loved using old techniques to create his designs. This was a problem for workers in his atelier, as most were not familiar with these lost arts. The house soon developed signature cuts and construction techniques which caused his work to stand out from the rest.
My Favourites Of The Exhibit
We were greeted by a lovely charcoal ball gown on display at the entrance of the exhibit. Featuring a burgundy velvet bodice by the name of “Autriche”, it was a veritable work of art. I joined the crowd of other salivating women and stared up at it in wonder.
This particular gown created in 1951 was made of silk faille, silk velvet (wow), tulle corset and steel bones. Dior drew inspiration from this dress from 19th century-style corsetry.
Batignolles is a silk twill taffeta dress in red tartan print. Cut on the bias, this dress has a lovely “je ne sais quoi”. Owner Lillian Weiss wore this coat dress to The Highlands Night Club in Cambridge, Ontario. Sigh…I *wish* people still dressed this way with such flair and attention to detail!
With its shimmering pale pale mint green/bluish colour, I was particularly drawn to this dress. Maybe it is the great cocktail length, or its stunning neckline, or the fact that Sophia Loren owned it in black.
Violets are one of my favourite flowers and definitely my favourite scent. What is particularly incredible about this darling dress is that each of the violets were embroidered onto silk organdy, carefully cut out and then re-applied to the silk. Incredible.
I gazed at this dress forever. It must have taken forever to create with its thousands of glass beads sewn onto the biscuit-coloured dupioni silk. The attention to detail on this particular gown is incredible.
This dress is a work of art that was originally worn by Toronto socialite, Dorothy Boylen. She chose this dress to be photographed for the Toronto Telegraph’s Best Dressed List in 1953.
Factoid: this dress was also owned by Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor.
Palmyre is nothing short of “resplendent”. To say it is “sumptuous” with its gleaming silver silk is the understatement of the decade. The embroidery and beadwork of this gown is for lack of better words, “crazy beautiful”.
Last but not least is my favourite of the entire exhibit, Vénus. A pink cupcake of a dress, it was purchased for a sixteen-year-old girl for her debut in 1949. She only wore it once.
This delicate pink confection of a dress just so happens to be an authorized copy of the original. It’s replete with thousands of feather-shaped, iridescent sequins sewn onto the scalloped hem, along with rhinestones in settings. Eight different varieties of cupped and flat sequins were also used.
This dress was a true crowd-pleaser. I had to wait quite a while to see it up close, it was so popular.
Other Goodies On Display
In addition to lovely clothing, Dior is known for its fantastic and whimsical jewelry. There were several lovely pieces on display including a glass lily of the valley necklace and matching earrings.
Lily of the valley was Dior’s favourite flower and was also the House’s signature. Dior, who happened to be deeply superstitious, would sew a sprig of dried lily of the valley into the hem of every one of his haute couture model gowns.
There are several vintage bottles of Dior perfumes on display incl a ding gorgeous bottle of Diorissimo perfume. This particular bottle was at one time the most expensive perfume in the world.
Continuing My Love Affair With Dior
Dior has always been one of my favourite designers and this exhibit gave me great insight into the House’s history and Mr. Dior’s thought processes as well.
I loved the exhibit so much that I returned the following day! I’m so glad that I did too, as I arrived early and pretty much had the space to myself.
Christian Dior Presented by Holt Renfrew is currently on exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum from November 25 to March 18, 2018. I highly implore you to visit the exhibit and be dazzled by the designs! This exhibit is extremely popular, so save yourself some time and buy your tickets online. I definitely plan on returning for a third, fourth…maybe fifth time too.
*Thank you to the Royal Ontario Museum for the kind invitation to view this exhibit!