Stepping inside the Christian Dior Designer of Dreams retrospective exhibit is akin to transcending into the astral realm of a fashion history utopia; like a dreamscape constructed through the lens of an otherworldly garden of grandeur. From the moment you enter, it is obvious that no expense nor sensory detail was spared in the making of the most exquisitely produced fashion exhibit I've ever witnessed. For hours I lost myself in a couture universe; one which brought me to tears of excitement, jaw-dropping awe and feverish inspiration.
Being the glutton that I am for beauty, fashion and craftsmanship, when rumor of a Dior retrospective blipped on my culture radar, I knew immediately that I must, simply MUST attend. There are some things in life that are non-negotiable, darling...
...and this exhibit was so clearly one of them. Winter in New York, canceled flights, planes, trains, bitter walks through dirty slush hauling heavy baggage, and global pandemic be damned. I refused to miss this exhibit.
For anyone with even an inkling of interest in fashion history, attending this spectacle of human creativity is without question worth every mile, penny and effort expended to get you there. My intuition hinted at such, which is why I carved out a stop in my current Los Angeles-hiatus for it. It was an absolute imperative. Traveling from Austin to NYC to meet my Philadelphia-dwelling, fashion exhibit partner in crime Cassandra, the Dior-seeking, carbohydrate hoarding New York City rendezvous ensued.
The exhibit outlines the revolutionary history of the crowning fashion house of Dior, founded in 1946. Rooms upon soaring rooms bring to life a full spectrum feast of the fashion house's range of astounding art directors through an earth-shattering array of archival and contemporary garments, perfumes, accessories, videos, sewing patterns, photos, and sketches; all brought to life through the lens of Mr. Dior's personal love of flowers, superstition, enchantment, and the lush extravagance of femininity and her endless marvel of silhouettes arisen through the artistry of Dior dressmaking.
Each gallery depicts a historical backdrop of creations by Mr. Dior himself along with every artistic director that succeeded him—Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons, and Maria Grazia Chiuri. The winding exhibit leads from room to room, each curated in judicious, thematic and dazzling detail; a marvelously rich and substantial tapestry of visual dessert at every turn. The central gallery is designed as beaux-arts complex meets an enchanted cosmic garden, complete with an audio experience of chirping birds, rustling wind and seamless projection mapping which spans floor to ceiling with a shimmering downfall of glitter, and transforms into a soft, billowing hug of rolling clouds. With sky-high ceilings, the eye soars upward to behold the numerous vertical displays of elevated couture gowns in every shape, size, color, textile, hand-beaded, hand-painted, masterwork of luscious human creativity one could possibly imagine. I tell you without exaggeration; I was perpetually left breathless, eyes tear-filled, and moved to my core with some rather romantic heart palpitations.
Walking out of the exhibit felt like awakening from a days-long, psychedelic-fueled euphoria hosted within an astral garden of heavenly delights...
...one of fascination which expands beyond the confines of human vocabulary. To put it lightly, we stumbled out squinting, dehydrated, bewildered, crying tears of joy, creatively exhilarated and exhausted beyond what one ever dreamed possible, and with an instantaneous instinct to return for more of that sweet nectar which couldn't possibly be replicated in waking consciousness.
So, to the House of Dior and all its visionary teams of designers, artisans, sewers and magic makers over the decades, and to the curatorial and installation geniuses at the Brooklyn Museum and beyond, I applaud you for taking myself, and countless others into an extraordinary dimension of fashion history; one who's sumptuous impression now stamped into my creative subconscious, will not soon fade. And the stamp reads:
Christian Dior. Truly a designer of dreams.
The New York premiere of the exhibition is housed in the Brooklyn Museum from September 10, 2021–February 20, 2022. The Brooklyn exhibit is curated by Florence Müller in collaboration with Matthew Yokobosky. Find out more here: https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/christian_dior
All photos by Ashley Urban