By Janet Kelly
IF YOU can’t make it to the Brooklyn Museum of Art to see its blockbuster exhibition, visit vicariously by getting your hands on the book that accompanies the show.
Divided into discrete chapters, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, published by Rizzoli Electa, is written by a cast of experts, each from his/her own perspective.
Jérôme Gautier, Dior publishing director and author of Dior New Looks, describes the designer’s early career struggles and how opening Christian-Dior New York “transformed Parisian spirit into American ready-to-wear sold in the country’s biggest stores.” In another chapter, American design historian Maureen Footer provides context in which to view the success of Dior with an explanation of the workings of the haute couture in Paris, starting with Louis XIV. She maintains that the New Look (an ultra-feminine combination of rounded shoulders, a cinched waist and a very full skirt) was not only a fashion coup but an event “signaling that the world had turned a page.”
The evolution of the House of Dior is told through pictures from the exhibition of Christian Dior’s and subsequent designers’ creations. When Dior died of a heart attack in 1957, his 21-year-old assistant, Yves Saint Laurent, influenced by street fashion, gave Dior another new look—with his black crocodile mink-trimmed jacket. A star-studded list of famous designer names followed: Marc Bohan, who held the post for 30 years, was known for his sculpted silhouettes; Gianfranco Ferré for his architectural clothing; John Galliano for his unorthodoxy; Raf Simons—who now collaborates with Miuccia Prada—for his tailoring, and Dior’s current first female creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, for her conceptual designs calling attention to the issues of the day.
It wouldn’t be a Rizzoli publication if weren’t illustrated with outstanding illustrations and photographs, and these from artist Katerina Jebb (shown) and the world’s most famous photographers do indeed dazzle.
Senior fashion curator at the Brooklyn Museum, Matthew Yokobosky, explains how Jebb used a scanner to deconstruct and then reassemble 35 of the House of Dior’s most famous designs into mosaic-like images—from the 1947 “Bar” suit (an ecru shantung jacket and black pleated wool crepe skirt) to a 2021 one-shoulder dress with a cascade of gold metallic fringes by Maria Grazia Chiuri.
The book concludes with a terrific portfolio of photographs from America’s most celebrated masters—including Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Bert Stern, Horst, Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Annie Liebovitz and Deborah Turbeville—who captured celebrated beauties, top models (from Dovima to Christy Turlington), famous actresses (Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe, to name just two) and rock stars (Rihanna) wearing Dior from the 1950s until today.