Sunday, 23 June 2019

Dior at the V&A - the rest

After posts covering my favourite two sections; the toiles and The Garden, here is my round-up of the rest of the Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition at the V&A.

The exhibition opens with perhaps the best known of Dior's creations: the Bar Suit from his first collection (the 'New Look').

Bar suit, 1947

'The Dior Line' looks at the different lines created by Dior and his successors.

Barnabé suit, Milieu du siècle line, autumn/winter 1949

In keeping with the 'line' theme, each outfit is displayed in a mirrored booth with lighting round the edges, which creates striking reflections.

Reflections around the Ulysse coat, Profilée line, autumn/winter 1952

'Dior in Britain' includes this dress made specially for the 21st birthday of Princess Margaret in 1951, embellished with mother of pearl, sequins, and with straw emboidery.

Fit for a princess - silk organza and straw

Just how slim the princess was becomes apparent round the back of the exhibit - the mannequin is slightly too large for the dress.

Showing the gap at the waist

I wasn't sure why these particular dresses are displayed in this section - if an explanation is provided then I missed it. They are all from the collections of the V&A and the Fashion Museum in Bath, and I assume that they were all owned by British women.

Dior dresses and ensembles, 1947-57

All is light and airy and pastel-hued in 'Historicism'.

Historical inspiration from various eras

Centre dress is 'Bonne Nuit' from spring/summer 1954

Dresses by John Galliano and Raf Simons

I must admit I had some problems with 'Travels'. There is a fine line between 'inspiration' and 'cultural appropriation', and personally I felt that some of the items on show tended towards the latter.

The two white dresses on the right have Mexican inspiration

Two looks inspired by Japan

'Designers for Dior' looks at the men, and now woman, who have filled the role of Creative Director since Dior's death in 1957. I loved the Saint Laurent hat, it is so reminiscent of several of the hat blocks in Hat Works.

Yves Saint Laurent, 1957-60

I must admit that my eye was drawn to the puckered hem on the pink dress, proving that even couture has its off days!

Marc Bohan, 1960-89

John Galliano, 1996-2011

This emboidered coat based on tarot cards was one of my favourite pieces in the exhibition.

Maria Grazia Chiuri, since 2016

After this section comes the wonderfully named 'Diorama'; a long display of hats, shoes, accessories and mini-mannequins, shaded from white through pink, orange, yellow and green to blue.

Scenes from the Diorama (apologies for the reflections)

'The Ballroom', unsurprisingly, features evening clothes.

Evening elegance in rosy pinks . . .

. . . and shimmering golds

The green and white dress on the left below is 'Arlequin D'Eau Argentée' (Silvery Water Harlequin) by John Galliano, spring/summer 1998, while the blue and white dress on the right is 'Junon' (Juno) by Dior, autumn/winter 1949.

Beautiful beading

As might be apparent from the above photographs, the lighting in the room changes hue constantly, accenting and obscuring details on various dresses as it does so. The effect is most obvious on this plain white dress and coat, a 'création spéciale' for Rihanna.

Maria Grazia Chiuri, 2017

The final dress is also by Maria Grazia Chiuri, inspired by a 1950s Dior promotional fan. Called 'Fan of Your Chances', the pleated tulle echoes the pleated paper, and Dior's signature is embroidered across the skirt. The angled mirrors show the dress from all sides. Amazingly for such a popular exhibition, I managed to find a brief moment when there was almost no-one else around to appear in the reflections (and by standing directly in front of the exhibit I wasn't reflected at all).

'Éventail de Vos Hasards', Maria Grazia Chiuri, spring/summer 2018

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Dior at the V&A - The Garden

As I mentioned in last week's post, The Garden was my second-favourite section of the Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition at the V&A.

It wasn't just the dresses that I liked; the theme is enhanced by the dense paper foliage which covers the ceiling, with small lights shining through it. In places it extends down the walls, and there are a few clumps of paper 'plants' on the floor as well.

There are roses, and other flowers . . .

. . . and lots of fern-like leaves

The centrepiece is this amazing dress, 'Jardin Fleuri', by Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior's current creative director.

Front, back and side views

The dress is from the spring/summer 2017 collection, and the decoration is created from cut and dyed feathers.

Close-up of the feather 'petals'

From my own limited experience of working with feathers I know just how awkward they can be, so I was totally in awe of the workmanship, especially as I couldn't see a single stitch attaching the feathers to the silk.

The rest of the display is arranged in a curve round this central case. As this point I must admit that unfortunately I was a Very Bad Blogger, and forgot to take notes of most of the dresses, so the background information is incomplete.

The dress on the far right is by Yves Saint Laurent for Christian Dior Boutique, c. 1960

Autumn/winter 2010, John Galliano

The dress on left is look 47, autumn/winter 2012, Raf Simons

The dress on the left below is 'Muguet' (the French name for lily of the valley), spring/summer 1957, Dior, while the full-length dress on the right is 'Nuit Australe', autumn/winter 2017, by Maria Grazia Chiuri.

Paper lilies of the valley round a dress of the same name

Look 19, autumn/winter 2010, John Galliano

Much as I liked the feathered dress, this one was my favourite. Also from the spring/summer 2017 collection by Maria Grazia Chiuri, 'Mémoire d'Hiver' has hand-painted silk petals caught like pressed flowers between layers of tulle, and a copper belt.

'Winter Memory'

It is displayed next to the similarly-coloured look 34, autumn/winter 2018

Foliage trailing back down to earth marks the end of the section

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Dior at the V&A - the toiles

My recent day trip to London was a long and busy day. Going to Swinging London at the Fashion and Textile Museum was only part of it; the main reason for the visit was to see Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A.

The view from the entrance queue

It did not disappoint. There was so much to see that I can't cram it all into one post (don't worry, I'll spare you most of the almost 300 photographs that I took!), so I'll start with what was my favourite room.

Part of the 'Ateliers' section of the exhibition

As another lady there observed to me, this was where you could tell who among the visitors were dressmakers. The people who had just come to look at beautiful clothes (and there's nothing wrong with that) either gave it a cursory once-over, or just said, "Eh?" and walked straight through. However those with practical experience of putting garments together stood there and gawped in slack-jawed wonderment for a while, before starting to examine pieces in detail.

The display extends round all four walls

All of the garments in the room are toiles: prototype garments made in plain cotton to test out a design before it is made up in costly couture fabric. My toiles, if I make them, tend to be fashioned from old bedlinen or fabric bought at 70% off in sales (and believe me, the pattern usually gives a good clue as to why it didn't sell well!), so seeing all of these in plain elegant white fabric was quite a revelation.

The effect is stunning

Something I read for Masters research* suggested that until recently couture houses did not keep any of the clothes they created, just the sketches and press releases. The earliest of the toiles on display here date from John Galliano's spring/summer 2007 collection, which made me wonder if Dior had only started the process of retaining the toiles from then. So even though the coat dress on the left in the picture below looks very 1950s, both it and the dress beside it are from autumn/winter 2018.

Toiles from 2007, 2009, 2015 and 2018

Going far further back than the 1950s, I loved the way that the bodice in the centre of this group echoes the styles of the 1660s, namely this dress.

Actually it dates from spring/summer 2009

The mannequins are stacked up to three high, but the mirrored ceiling makes the display look taller. It also gives a glimpse of some details which cannot be seen from ground level, such as the neckline of this dress.

Look 22 toile, spring/summer 2009

Even the buttons are beautifully covered.

Look 12 toile, spring/summer 2010

Details such as buttonholes are marked on, even if they are purely decorative.

Look 24 toile, spring/summer 2010

Different weights of fabric are used, to match the type of garment and the couture fabric it will be made from; ranging from soft and sheer to crisp and highly structured.

l - look 17, spring/summer 2010, r - look 15, autumn/winter 2009

Even the belt and buckle are cut from cotton

Where the piece is to be embellished with beading and/or embroidery, the design is either printed out and pinned in place, or drawn directly onto the fabric.

Look 7 toile, spring/summer 2007

Sometimes it is possible to match the toile to a garment on display elsewhere in the exhibition.

Look 9, spring/summer 2007

Look 1, spring/summer 2007

Some of the toiles are very plain indeed. The final example is not an exact match, although the toile and the dress are from the same collection. It does however demonstrate how an apparently simple dress shape may be a setting for a particularly luxurious fabric or embellishment.

Look 60 toile and look 34 dress, autumn/winter 2018

The silk dress is made using a technique called velours au sable, which creates localised areas of velvet on the fabric. It is displayed in my second-favourite section of the exhibition, 'The Garden'. But that is a topic for another post.

* - Palmer, A. (2005). Vintage whores and vintage virgins: Second hand fashion in the twenty-first century. In Palmer, A. & Clark, H. (Eds.), Old clothes, new looks: Second hand fashion (pp. 197-214). Oxford, United Kingdom: Berg.

Sunday, 2 June 2019

The anemone dress - cut out

I've done it! I've actually taken scissors to fabric, and cut into the dress length that's been sitting in my stash for a mere 28 years.

In truth, once I'd made the decision to finally use the fabric, cutting it up wasn't that scary. After all, ruining a piece of cotton would hardly be the greatest calamity that's occurred in my life in the last few years. That said, I did do a fair bit of preparation before the dressmaking shears came out.

The design ended up as a mash-up of three New Look patterns.

Source material

Mostly it's the lengthened version of 6299 that I've made before. However I wasn't keen on either the neckline or the collar, so instead I'm using the curved neckline from view D of 6723, albeit raised a little to avoid a rerun of the Butterick 5997 problem. Rather than plain sleeves, I decided to go for the slightly ruched ones on my tried and trusted summer dress pattern 6093. (I was initially tempted just to make a new 6093 for this project, but the skirt panels are cut on the bias and quite wasteful of fabric, and after all this time I wanted to use as much of the material as possible).

Talking of which. . . When I laid out the pattern pieces for my adapted version of view D there was about half a metre of fabric left over, so I decided to try to add the godets which appear in views B and C. Because I'd lengthened the dress, the godet pieces are quite big. I could fit them in, but only if I cut one set upside down.

In theory, this wouldn't be a huge problem. Although the fabric design is one-way, it's not especially obvious.

The fabric draped in both directions

The only part which is clearly directional is the flower buds, which all point upwards.

Highlighting the buds, and the fold between the two fabric pieces
Realistically, if anyone got close enough to the skirt of my dress to notice that the tiny flower buds point in different directions then I think that my poor cutting out would be the least of my problems! But I just couldn't bring myself to overrule decades of good dressmaking practice and do it. So instead I had to work out a different layout.

This took several evenings, and was only achieved by using my pattern cutting board. It is marked into a grid of 2cm squares, so I could easily try out different layouts and see how much space they used. Because the grid shows through the tissue I could also be sure that all the pattern pieces were properly laid out along the grain. If you draft your own designs, or regularly go off-piste with commercial patterns, it's a really useful tool for working out how much fabric you'll need.

Pattern pieces laid out on the board

Try as I might, it was impossible to fit everything in, so I ended up piecing the back godets: the picture above shows where part of the pattern piece overlaps the 'fabric' edge at the bottom. However there were easily enough scraps to complete the piecing, and I even managed to match the pattern - yes, I am that obsessive! On top of that I was able to add pockets (because, pockets) and everything, even the facings, is cut in the right direction. Result!