A fitting tribute to Christian Dior, the designer who dared to break barriers

At its heart was the Bar suit, an outfit that comprised a wasp-waisted jacket and bustled skirt. In 30-40 yards of precious cloth Dior offered a repudiation of every privation and foregone frippery. The corseted jacket also returned women to the age of strict body shaping not seen since just after the First World War.

This wasn’t your standard French revolution. Dior’s first collection had emerged at a time when clothing rations and a 100 per cent purchase tax levied on luxury goods left the entire population weary of making do and mending.

Despite the best efforts of a few designers who lent their talents to the Utility clothing scheme, people had tired of the limited scope of fabrics and styles. But it wasn’t the factory workers who led the rebellion. The signal to abandon the dreary weeds of war came from the top, and when it did the rush to full skirts and longer lengths was unseemly to many.

Politicians and puritans were appalled by its “wasteful” material demands and what Mabel Ridealgh, MP for North Ilford, called the “caged bird” look. “I hope our fashion dictators will realise the new outlook of women and give them the death blow… at curtailing women’s freedom”. Fat chance. Women quickly made it clear that they didn’t want the freedom to wear modest dresses and frumpy jackets. Within a year modified versions of Christian Dior’s vision were everywhere.

His eponymous house is now one of the world’s most successful brands. Maria Grazia Chiuri is the latest designer to take on the role of what she calls “curator of its history”. And what a history there is to curate. It’s one of the reasons Brand Dior has chosen to mark the New Look moment with a blockbuster exhibition. Christian Dior, Designer of Dreams, at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, is the biggest exhibition of his work shown to date.

Here visitors can witness for themselves just how startling La Ligne Corolle, the New Look’s actual title, must have been for women brought up on the fashion equivalent of powdered egg. The Bar suit is there, as are original toiles, sketches, letters and, yes, some of the finest dresses crafted by human hands. If your own austerity budget can stretch as far as a ticket to Paris it’s a fashion bargain, even if you only come home with a postcard.Read more at:evening gowns | cocktail dresses australia

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