The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture at NGV

Christian Dior [Misc.]

Christian Dior models in the salon of House of Dior’s headquarters, 30 Avenue Montaigne, Paris 1957. Photograph by Loomis Dean, featured in LIFE Magazine, 1957 © Loomis Dean/The LIFE Picture Collection/Licensed by Getty Images

Glamour, elegance, style and French chic are reflected in the fashion of the House of Dior in Paris, which will be marking seventy years of haute couture in 2017 with a considerable celebration of style.

Educating both our eye for beauty and our palate, the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) through its Minister for Creative Industries in Melbourne Martin Foley MP, made two great announcements on behalf of The Board of Trustees on Friday 9th December 2016.


Inside the ateliers of the House of Dior, 2012 © Pol Baril

The first Spring surprise for the year ahead August 27 – November 7, 2017, will be a never-before-seen exhibition The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture showcasing 140 garments – 1947-2017.

The idea will be to transport all viewers to the world of 30 Avenue Montaigne, where they can experience the mansion from the ateliers to the salons.


Christian Dior, Paris (fashion house) Bar suit spring summer 1947 haute couture collection Photo © Laziz Hamani

Exclusive to the NGV, in Australia, this fabulous show will only be on display at Paris its home of origin, New York and Melbourne.

What a coup for Tony Ellwood, Director of the NGV and his excellent curatorial team. Quite apart from the extraordinary French connection that exists here in Melbourne, there is also the unique affinity that France has enjoyed with Australia since their explorers came here late in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

This was reinforced during both World Wars of the twentieth century and again following World War II, through a very special fashion event.


Coquette dress, autumn winter 1948 haute couture collection Photo © Clifford Coffin/Licensed by Trunk Archive Model: Wenda Rogerson (Parkinson)

In 1948 there were Christian Dior fashion parades held at David Jones, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. David Jones house models of the day wore fifty original creations by Christian Dior – the first complete Dior collection ever shown outside Paris.


Christian Dior models arriving in Australia for the presentation of the autumn winter 1957 haute couture collection, Christian Dior’s last collection, at Myer Mural Hallin Australia, November 1957 All rights reserved

According to Sidney Toledano, Chief Executive of Christian Dior Couture “Christian Dior, who gave each of his designs names, baptized some “Melbourne” or “Sydney”, and we have lost count of the number of looks called “Australie. Today”, he said, “…We have six boutiques in Australia”.


Christian Dior, Paris (fashion house) John Galliano (designer) autumn winter 2010 haute couture collection Photo © Guy Marineau

The second spring surprise is that there will be another first for this exhibition; an associated all new ticketed Black-Tie Ball.

The NGV Gala will be held annually from 2017, with the proceeds going to support the NGV Fashion and Textiles Collection.

It will be an ‘unforgettable night of art, fashion, live performance, fine food and wine’.

Both events will give society in Melbourne a giant boost and an opportunity to put on a show of their own, while supporting the NGV’s creative initiatives.

The NGV Gala on 26th August 2017 has two aspects; Gala Celebration | Exclusive Dinner & Gala

Tickets went on sale immediately and are sure to book out fast.

Providing a rich narrative of this esteemed and much admired fashion house means showcasing Christian Dior’s early influences.

These include the design codes synonymous with Christian Dior himself, as well as the milestones of its six successive designers inspired by his lead – Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and Maria-Grazia Chiuri.


Christian Dior, Paris (fashion house) John Galliano (designer) spring summer 2011 haute couture collection Photo © Guy Marineau

‘The exhibition will invite Australian and international audiences to discover some of the most significant couture designs of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It will be a celebration of Dior’s most landmark moments and designs, including their iconic ‘New Look’ silhouette, which revolutionised women’s fashion in the 1950s, through to the present-day contemporary aesthetic said Tony Ellwood, NGV Director who also explained that…

‘…we are delighted that 68 years after the historic Dior fashion parade at its Sydney store, David Jones is once again helping Australia celebrate the House of Dior, as the exhibition’s Principal Partner,’ said Mr Ellwood.

The confirmation of ‘design as art’ appeared in the aftermath of an International Exhibition of Arts – The Exposition Des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels (Art Deco for short), which was held at Paris from April to October in 1925.

Its protagonists, according to Modernist author Alastair Duncan, were escaping the’ tyranny of historical styles and a calcified culture’.

Did they succeed? Were their styles original as claimed? And, are the French still informing the evolution of art, design and style?


Cavalcade of fashion at NGV, December 9, 2016 photo Carolyn McDowall

Well yes would have to be the answer, especially after observing the masterclass in style the guests at the announcement received as curtains were pulled back to reveal a cavalcade of Dior fashion from the NGV Costume Collection. It certainly adhered to the ideas associated with Dior’s New Look – the silhouette, the flowers and, the opulence.

Five iconic outfits were showcased on models posing as living statues within a panelled French salon in the classical style, with a sumptuous display of his ‘new look’ for both day and night lit by an ornate crystal chandelier overhead and a backdrop of bounteous blooms arranged beautifully in urns on pedestals.


Christian Dior and fashion model Lucky c. 1956 © Christian Dior Photo: Bellini

During the early 1950s French designer Christian Dior (1905-1957) and the couture house he founded, became a huge success followed the deprivations experienced in wartime.

He helped reinvigorate Paris to remain at the centre of the fashion world from that day to this with a look that was all at once, feminine, glamorous and guaranteed to turn heads.

He gave the ladies of the world just that personal lift they needed by making them look and feel fabulous, inspiring them after all the years of sadness to look to the future with hope.


Christian Dior draping fabric over fashion model Sylvie c. 1948 © Christian Dior Photo: Bellini

Christian Dior certainly seemed integral to my life as I grew into a young woman. I remembered when he left this mortal coil in 1957, because it was the first year I was at High School and we were asked to design a dress in our dressmaking class, based on or inspired by his designs.

To do that I needed to talk to my Auntie Dulcie, who at the time of Dior’s great foray into Australia in 1948, was working on the ‘Seventh Floor’, of David Jones in Sydney.

At that time it was considered by Sydney ladies the drop dead chicest place in Australia to shop alongside Georges in Melbourne.

Surrounded by all those glamorous gowns I used to believe I had died and gone to heaven as my mother and I stepped out of the ‘special lift’ manned by a uniformed concierge accessing the much-revered floor.


Christian Dior, Paris (fashion house) Raf Simons (designer) autumn winter 2012 haute couture collection © Dior

This used to happen only after I turned 12 … the turning point it seemed to me when children became ‘civilised’. Up until then I had always been left with my aunt nearby.

Over the years Christian Dior and the style of the garments on the Seventh Floor’ at Sydney certainly continued to have an impact on the development of my own sense of fashion.

David Jones Chief Operating Officer David Thomas was at the unveiling,  waxing lyrically about the store’s involvement and how honoured they are to be a part of such a wondrous fashion event for Melbourne in 2017.

The National Gallery of Victoria is certainly setting exceedingly high standards of curatorial excellence on the international costume and textile scene of late, which must also be pleasing for the curator.


Christian Dior, Paris (fashion house) Raf Simons (designer) spring summer 2015 haute couture collection © Dior

Katie Sommerville and her team are sure to be looking forward to a year of working on this amazing show.

The NGV have been collecting fashion and textiles for more than one hundred and twenty years now and today they have an outstanding international collection of incredible breadth, quality and craftsmanship.

Since the 1980s, the evolution of design has also become a global phenomenon. Top international designers from many disciplines now enjoy the status of superstars.

Events like these that are important to the evolution of our culture and inspire Australia’s young designers and help them to innovate and exceed boundaries, as they go on to establish successful national and international careers.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016

The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture

NGV International, St Kilda Road, Melbourne

27 August – 7 November, 2017



Inside the ateliers of the House of Dior, 2012 © Pol Baril

NGV Gala

NGV International, St Kilda Road, Melbourne


All proceeds go towards the development of the NGV Fashion & Textiles Collection, exhibitions and programs.

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