Friday, February 10, 2017

A dose of sublime elegance

Exhibition poster. Marilyn Monroe wears a Dior design during The Last Sitting photographed by Bert Stern for Vogue at the Bel-Air Hotel in Los Angeles, June 1962. © Bert Stern.

Some people go for the puppy or kitten videos, others post scenes of nature. While these certainly give me a needed distraction from the disturbing state of politics today, there's no escape like momentarily sinking into a world of beauty and elegance. To calm my nerves after obsessively reading and watching the news and as a reward for taking the latest action (writing letters and postcards to my senators and other elected officials), I decided to pay a visit to the childhood home of Christian Dior.

On February 12, it will be 70 years since Christian Dior presented his first collection, his post-war antidote to austerity and drabness. Using 10 to 25 yards of fabric and accentuating the waist, hips and bosom, his designs were not modern, but his "New Look" answered a deep need for beauty and reassurance.

Christian Dior was born here in 1905 and was nostalgic about it all his life, incorporating pink and grey colors in his designs and the scents of rose and lily of the valley in his perfumes.

Museum shows are such a great opportunity to study a theme in depth and a great resource of curated imagery, information and point of view. Even if I can't make it to a particular exhibit, at least I can do online research and request access to the images. I didn't make it to Granville in Normandy France for the Christian Dior Museum's show, "Women in Dior – Sublime Elegance of a Portrait," but they kindly shared their images.

Curated by Florence Müller, the show pays tribute to Dior dresses and the women who wore them. Here's a quote from the exhibit:

"The clothes a woman wears communicate a lot about her personality, unspoken clues to who she is for the world to decipher. The array of designs created by Christian Dior, and then by his successors, has consistently enchanted a vast number of women who find what they need to express their individuality in the beautifully crafted lines. Ever since 1947, this synergy has produced a long line of elegantly-clad women who have a close relationship with their Dior outfits, unfailing witnesses to every highlight of their lives."

The cover for the exhibition book. Angélique dress by Mats Gustafson, 2016. © Mats Gustafson.

The women featured in the book written by biographer and fashion journalist Laurence Benaïm are the many of the most glamorous women, past and present. To review the list is a study of fascinating lives. 

They are:
HRH Princess Grace of Monaco
The Duchess of Windsor
Diana, Princess of Wales
Countess de Ribes
Leonor Fini, a very interesting Argentine surrealist painter
Olivia de Havilland
Jackie Kennedy
Patricia López-Willshaw (fascinating story)
Francine Weisweiller, muse to Jean Cocteau
Marilyn Monroe
Charlize Theron
Elizabeth Taylor
Edmonde Charles-Roux, French Vogue editor, novelist and biographer of Chanel
Zizi Jeanmaire, French dancer with great style and pizazz
Mitzah Bricard, muse to Christian Dior, he said "Ms. Bricard is one of those rare people whose only reason for living is elegance." She was the leopard print personified.
Suzanne Luling, childhood friend and original Dior public relations directrice
Carmen Colle
Marlene Dietrich
Jennifer Lawrence
Natalie Portman
Marion Cotillard
Emilia Clarke

Geneviève Page wears a Christian Dior dress during the French Film Festival in London in 1957.
© Keystone-France.

 Lady Diana arrives in Buenos Aires, November 23, 1995. She carries the Dior handbag that she will eventually popularize, which will become the famous Lady Dior. © Tim Graham/Getty Images.

 Portrait of Mitzah Bricard, circa 1950. All rights reserved.

Princess Margaret accompanied by Sir Oliver Harvey while arriving to the Bal du Cercle Interallié benefitting the British Hertford Hospital in Paris, November 21, 1951. © Rue des Archives/AGIP.

Rihanna chose a design from the Autumn-Winter 2015 haute couture collection to attend the Spring-Summer 2016 ready-to-wear collection’s runway show in Paris, October 2, 2015. © Getty Images for Dior.