Saturday, 31 August 2013

Exhibition review: Christian Dior: Designer in focus

The Gallery of Costume situated in Rusholme, Manchester currently has an exhibition focused on Dior from early 1940s until late 1900s it is split into two distinctive sections the downstairs space shows the typical Parisian market and designs. Whilst upstairs the space is dedicated to showing how Dior changed his designs and styles to suit a more British sensibility, the exhibition being split up this way highlights the cultural differences between taste and style of the time.

The main differences between the garments displayed in the Parisian and British sections is in the use of colour, the Parisian style is more bright, extra use of taffeta in evening gowns creating elongated shape whereas in the British section there is use of more subtler darker colours such as navy in creating a structured cocktail dress with nipped in waist and ¾ sleeves compared to the more risqué Parisian black cocktail dress ‘Ligne Trompe L’Oeil.’
My favourite dress from the British section was a 1952 Cocktail dress in slate blue, silk satin printed with small black splodges all around and has a large made up bow attached to the front of skirt. It was made specifically for the British market I particularly enjoyed the use of black splodges contrasted with the oversized bow at the front of the dress it is slightly comical in its extremities.

Compared to my favourite dress from the Parisian section it is total night and day in terms of style and taste I loved the 1956 ‘Ligne Almant’ Cocktail dress, it is made from rose pink silk taffeta, it gathers into a nipped in waist with a waterfall effect of draping fabric at the front. The use of floral print, bandeau style top and layered roses gives an overall effect of elegance, refined beauty and I could see it looking centre stage in 1950s Paris.

I thought that the exhibition was well presented and suited its location perfectly especially by having the British styled designs set upstairs in a traditional Victorian setting, it was set within Deborah Worsley and John Lees (1762) dining room adjacent to the spiralling marble stair case so by the time you enter the exhibition space you have transpired into an environment emoting more grandeur already. It showed the differences between 1900 Parisian and British clientele in a subtle yet clear manner by not displaying side by side you cannot compare at first glance the garments differences so by displaying in different rooms it explores you to look further into the subtle changes.
Alongside the garments displayed were original Christian Dior sketches and illustrations, newspaper clippings from the period which allowed you to get a further context into the time period. Also one of my favourite parts of the exhibition was when original photographs such as one of the Duchess of Windsor in which she was wearing a black evening dress was displayed alongside the actual dress it was nice to see how she styled the dress in her own way.

The exhibition is defiantly worth a visit if you’re visiting Manchester not just for the Dior originals but also The Gallery of Costume, Rusholme permanent collections are also very interesting and focus on how fashion has changed throughout the twentieth century from Westwood to Christopher Kane originals.

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