DENVER (AP) – Haute couture dresses worn by Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Jennifer Lawrence and Rihanna are now on display at the Denver Art Museum.
The museum’s new exhibition, “Dior: From Paris to the World”, opened on Monday and will run until early March. This is the first major Dior retrospective in the United States, and it showcases seven decades of decadent looks.
Christian Dior exploded onto the fashion scene in the late 1940s.
“Christian Dior really made a big revolution with his ‘New Look’,” said Florence Müller, curator of textile art and fashion for the Avenir Foundation at the Denver Art Museum.
Dior’s fashion vision was a break from the era, when the trend was “always for this war silhouette, very masculine, very boxy,” said Müller.
“He reinvented femininity through a line (which was) very curvy, very charming, very romantic,” said Müller. “It was really a reconstruction of the traditional view of femininity, but in a very contemporary way and in the spirit of the 1950s … linked to this idea of a world that was being rebuilt after WWII. “
Müller organized a Dior exhibition in Paris last year. But her take on the Denver show was different, focusing instead on Dior’s expansion into the Americas and the dresses worn by her North American and South American clients. There are over 200 dresses in the Denver show, many of which have never been on display before.
The American fashion press has gone crazy over Dior’s debut collection, said Müller, especially the Harper’s Bazaar editor Carmel Snow.
“She refers to (d) her first collection, ‘The New Look’,” said Müller.
Snow called the American buyers and said, “There is something going on in Paris. It’s crazy. You have to buy Christian Dior, ”said Müller.
“And suddenly, in a matter of minutes, he was famous.”
Christian Dior died at age 52 in 1957, leaving him to run his own fashion house for only a decade.
For the Denver retrospective, Müller built a brand story over time of how Dior’s vision has endured and evolved, as subsequent directors have taken over. There are pieces designed by Yves Saint Laurent, the first to lead the label after Dior’s death.
Müller also organized a retrospective of Laurent at the Denver Art Museum in 2012. Laurent “invented a new way of shaping the female body,” she said.
French fashion designer Marc Bohan took over from Laurent. Bohan’s well-received first Dior collection was considered the “thin line” for its fitted silhouette. Gianfranco Ferré brought a postmodernist touch to Maison Dior from the late 1980s to the mid 1990s. The exhibition also features the looks of contemporary Dior leaders John Galliano, Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri.
Chiuri, appointed in 2016, is the current and first female director of Dior.
“Maria Grazia Chiuri is really about the powerful woman,” Müller said of Chiuri’s collection. “(It is) this idea that a woman can be powerful and also very beautiful and very feminine.”
For Müller, it’s not just about seeing pretty clothes. She said that fashion, with its intense art, belongs to the great art museums. The exhibit is packed with videos and documents, which show the in-depth research and process that goes into making a single dress.
“This is also one of the aims of the exhibition, to show that this is serious work,” said Müller.