As the Dior show comes to a close, I thought I’d share my thoughts on a magical work of curation.
My starting point was sheer, obstinate resistance to this subject matter, struggling as I do to connect the world of haute couture with the wholeheartedness of my daily, slightly grubby reality where ‘scrubbing up well’ is an achievement. And from this exact moment, curator Oriole Cullen managed to educate, seduce, and convert me.
Walking in to the exhibition, I instantly felt myself angry and indignant – man’s perception of a woman as ‘upturned flower’, posing statically in impossibly thin wastes, women not expected to actually want to move, and therefore, completely at odds with my demands on life. How does this designer’s vision match my role as a woman of now? “It doesn’t,” I thought. “Why am here here?” I thought.
However, the show was designed so exquisitely (this great film shows its spectacular and dramatic build), we could not help but look, examine, wonder at the craft, and be swept into the compelling story through rooms so beautifully constructed and lit, and cleverly captioned, it was simply impossible to turn away. As the story was told of House of Dior evolving with successive designers – Yves Saint Laurent, Raf Simons, Maria Grazia Chiuri — and opening up to new angles of view, emerging feminist desire and an understanding of women’s need to express themselves through movement in clothes, this I found fascinating.
Yes, I got it. Designer of dreams – not necessarily dreams to copy still flowers, but dreams to bloom and sway in constant creation. I fell in love with Maria Grazia Chiuri’s vision and watching the films of her studying models as they walked in order to learn how fabric moves in order to represent them, not the other way around, this I adored. The hours of devotion in hand-stitching the sun and moon and stars onto sheer fabric … she had me. And Oriole Cullen had convinced me.
I may never have a true romance with haute couture but by the time I left I was thoroughly inspired to rethink my entire approach, to go home and design and make my own wardrobe in celebration of all I dream of and hope to be in this world. Surely an exhibition that turns a hardened atheist into not just a believer, but activist, is as good as it can get. The most powerful stories are ones we can read ourselves into.
Designer of Dreams? Maybe so after all.