V&A Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams. An op-ed by Jodi Muter-Hamilton
"There is no other country in the world, besides my own, whose way of life I like so much. I love English traditions, English politeness, English architecture. I even love English cooking." Christian Dior 1957
Attending the opening evening of the V&A’s Christian Dior exhibition was a dream within a dream, thanks to the milliner, Stephen Jones. Not only did Tamara and myself immerse ourselves in the world Dior, exquisitely curated by Oriole Cullen alongside set designer Nathalie Crinière, but we were also incredibly lucky to have a guided tour around the exhibition by Stephen Jones (thankfully due to Tamara’s friendship with Stephen). Opening up the wonder of Dior, Stephen Jones (who has worked with the hour of Dior since 1996) shared his incredible insight into the history of the brand and the life of Christian Dior. The stories Stephen unfolded included how a classic black suit displayed in the exhibition was created for a lady who won a Daily Mail competition and the fact that Dior previously made stage make-up, including fake blood. Imagine, Dior Fake Blood - pure genius!
We also heard how the dress created for Princess Margaret’s 21st celebration and featured in her official birthday portrait photographed by Cecil Beaton was not all it appeared to be in the photograph. If you look at the photograph and the dress up close in real life you can see there is a difference in the volume of the skirt. Stephen drew our attention to this and enlightened us to how Cecil Beaton had altered the image to make the skirt more voluminous. Incredible.
Walking through the beautiful rooms of the exhibition reminded me not only how prolific Dior and the house’s subsequent designers including John Galliano and Raf Simons have been, but also how magical couture is up close. The attention to detail, stunning pattern-cutting, exquisite fabrics and the hours of love in each garment from poured from the hands of highly skilled craftspeople is something that in today’s age we rarely come close to, and in such awe-inspiring quantity.
It has given me faith that we (not just me going on about it all the time!) really do still value the beauty of creation of clothes and the skills of makers alongside the talent of designers. If you haven’t guessed, I thoroughly recommend that you visit the exhibition. Of course, I can’t guarantee Stephen Jones will be available as a guide, but I can guarantee you’ll leave feeling a little bit more in love with Dior, and the magic of couture.