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V&A to stage largest ever Christian Dior exhibition in the UK

Lauretta Roberts
02 July 2018

In February of next year the V&A will open the largest and most comprehensive exhibition on the House of Dior ever to be staged in the UK.

Spanning 1947 to the present day, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams will trace the history and impact of one of the 20th century’s most influential couturiers, and the six artistic directors who have succeeded him, to explore the enduring influence of the fashion house.

The exhibit will be the London museum's largest since its record-breaking Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty in 2015.

Based on the major exhibition Christian Dior: Couturier du Rêve, organised by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, the exhibition will be reimagined for the V&A. A brand-new section will, for the first time, explore the anglophile designer’s fascination with British culture.

“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,” the designer once said.

Dior admired the grandeur of the great houses and gardens of Britain, as well as British-designed ocean liners, including the Queen Mary. He also had a preference for Savile Row suits. In 1947, he hosted his first UK fashion show at London’s Savoy Hotel, and in 1952 established Christian Dior London.

The exhibition will investigate Dior’s creative collaborations with British manufacturers, and his most notable British clients, from author Nancy Mitford to ballet dancer Margot Fonteyn. A highlight will be the Christian Dior dress worn by Princess Margaret for her 21st birthday celebrations, which has been loaned by the Museum of London.

Christian Dior

Princess Margaret presents Dior with his Honorary Life Membership of the British Red Cross after the presentation of his Winter Collection at Blenheim Palace on November 3, 1954 - Popperfoto / Getty Images

The exhibition will present more than 500 objects, including the iconic Bar Suit, with over 200 rare Haute Couture garments shown alongside accessories, fashion photography, film, perfume, make-up, illustrations, magazines, and Christian Dior’s personal possessions.

Since his death in 1957 Dior has been succeeded by six creative directors at the head of the house and the exhibition will also explore how each of them kept his legacy alive from Yves Saint Laurent's daring vision to Marc Bohan's rational designs and the flamboyance of Gianfranco Ferre. There then followed an exuberant period under British designer John Galliano, a minimalist period under Raf Simons and now a feminist approach under its first female creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri.

Tim Reeve, Deputy Director and COO of the V&A, said: “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams celebrates one of the most ingenious and iconic designers in fashion history. Reimagining this hugely popular exhibition from Paris – as the largest fashion exhibition the V&A has undertaken since Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty – will shed new light on Dior’s fascination with Britain.

"The V&A holds one of the largest and most important fashion collections in the world, and we are delighted to be able to reveal highlights from our outstanding collection alongside those from the remarkable archive of the House of Dior, for this spectacular exhibition.”

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams runs from 2 February – 14 July 2019. Tickets will go on sale in Autumn 2018.

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