Guest Post – The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture

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Hello! I’m back with another guest post for Curate Your Own Adventure. This time I’m discussing The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture exhibition, currently on show at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in Melbourne. This exhibition commemorates the seventieth anniversary of the Dior fashion house, one of the most iconic couture fashion houses in the world. I’m going to try and keep this brief, as most of what I have to say simply constitutes raving about how good the exhibition is and encouraging you to visit it yourself.

I made a special trip to Melbourne from Sydney to see the exhibition, which had been on my list since it was first announced earlier in the year. I had to roll my eyes at yet ANOTHER exhibition opening exclusively in Melbourne. There seems to be a real trend for ‘exhibition exclusivity’ south of the border at the moment. My visit was probably affected to some extent by the weekend we had selected – beginning of school holidays and football finals. It was a very busy weekend in the city. I had been warned to expect the Gallery to be very busy, and had already pre-purchased our exhibition tickets online a week in advance, which I thought was the done thing. Note the tickets are not timed but are valid for a specific date. Apparently, no one else bought their tickets online because the queue to buy tickets at the gallery was obscenely long. We arrived at the Gallery shortly after opening time at about 10:15am and there were at least 100 people queueing to buy tickets. The queue had at least doubled by the time we exited. We happily skipped this queue and entered the exhibition, where we quickly discovered another queue just to get into the first room. I have been to more than my fair share of exhibitions in my time in Australia and overseas, and never have I encountered one as busy as this. Again, this might have had something to do with the date we visited, however it was still insanely busy. I was glad to see so many people out enjoying some culture. Because of how busy it was, my experience of the exhibition was different to normal as I was unable to read the majority of the labels and description panels due to the sheer number of people in the rooms. Again, it remains a mystery to me why tickets were not timed. So, instead of gaining a lot of background knowledge on the topic being displayed, my visit focused on enjoying the clothes and other objects on display as pieces of art. This would usually annoy me, but given the subject matter and how beautiful the objects were, I don’t feel it diminished my experience.

I won’t go through each element of the exhibition, all of the objects or the display, simply because it was too vast for me to meaningfully discuss, and it was too well done and thoughtfully curated for me to be able to do it justice. The incredible thought and detail that has gone into this exhibition and the display is truly some of the best I have seen and something to aspire to. It was obvious that no expense had been spared, from the sheer scale to the commissioning of new pieces and special millinery for the exhibition. The curation really did the subject and objects justice.

The exhibition covers all aspects of Dior’s operations and history, meaning that there are pieces from each creative director on show, which really made the creative evolution of the brand clear, as well as clothes, shoes, hats and perfume. One of my favourite rooms was that which displayed dozens of pairs of shoes and hats as if they were in shop windows, along with some of the iconic Dior perfumes in their original vintage packaging. Another favourite room was the final room of the exhibition. This room was circular, and displayed outfits on mannequins all around the circumference of the room, along with a number of outfits displayed on a revolving centre platform. This display meant that you could stand in one place and have the outfits pass by in front of you. This room and display reminded me of how I imagine a 1950’s department store (think the modelling scenes in How to Marry a Millionaire starring Marilyn Monroe). This room was probably my favourite as it displayed some of the most extravagant and classic Haute Couture pieces – mostly ball gowns and incredibly spectacular outfits that would only ever be appropriate for the red carpet or a white tie event.

Another element of the exhibition definitely worth mentioning was a small section discussing the first Dior collection to visit Australia, which occurred in 1948. This landmark visit had a lasting effect on both the Australian fashion industry and the house of Dior. This section had original programs and images from the fashion parades that took place which was really interesting for anyone interested in vintage fashion. It was just a shame that this section was quite small and in a hallway between two larger rooms, but it was nice to see this history and connection acknowledged.

I have included some pictures I took at the exhibition, but given how crowded it was it was quite difficult to take any at all, let alone attempt to capture the real beauty of the clothes and the displays. Seriously, these pictures and my description does not nearly do this exhibition justice. I can only implore you to visit it yourself if you have the opportunity. The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture is currently showing at the NGV International (if you are unfamiliar with the NGV, it is spread across two separate locations. Dior is showing at St Kilda Road, not Federation Square) until November 7th. There are also sister exhibitions currently on display in Paris and New York if you find yourself there instead. Enjoy!

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Clever display – a mirror underneath the dress allowed visitors to see the underskirt of the dress

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Vintage Perfumes

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Miranda Kerr’s custom 2017 Wedding Dress

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This post was written by Imogen Kennard-King: Imogenkennard.king@gmail.com.

A huge thank you to Imogen for again sharing her wonderful thoughts on exhibitions!

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