Rounded shoulders, boned bodices, padded hips and full skirts — it’s the style most often associated with Mad Men.
But while the television show is set at the start of the Swinging Sixties, the couture it has become famous for was so influential that it was started more than a decade earlier.
This new wave of fashion which became famous for establishing the unfurling hourglass silhouette came to life at the hands of Christian Dior, one of the finest designers of his generation.
Dior’s revolutionary designs celebrated femininity and elegance after the austerity of World War II.
And after years of making ends meet on the factory floor as their men fought in foreign countries, the ‘New Look’ spring-summer collection unveiled in 1947 rejuvenated the fashion world.
Seventy years after its debut, more than 140 garments designed by Christian Dior Couture between 1947 and 2017 will go on display at the National Gallery of Victoria from Sunday.
“The exhibition will invite Australian and international audiences to discover some of the most significant couture designs of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries,” National Gallery of Victoria director Tony Ellwood said.
“The exhibition will be a celebration of Dior’s most landmark moments and designs.”
Dior’s association with Australia goes back further than most people realise.
In 1948, a year after the fashion house’s couture collection changed the face of fashion, 50 original creations featured at the spring fashion parade at David Jones in Sydney. It was the first time a Dior show was shown outside of Paris.
Christian Dior Couture president, Sidney Toledano, said the gallery’s modern exhibition was a historic moment. “This exhibition will be the biggest Dior retrospective ever held in Australia,” he said.
“It will cover seventy years of creation, presenting the emblematic work of Christian Dior and his successors, including Maria Grazia Chiuri, who arrived last July and is the first woman at the head of the couture house.”
Christian Dior opened his fashion house in 1946, after working as a fashion illustrator and designer.
Ahead of his first show, public interest was so intense that some invitations made their way to the black market.
Dior’s designs would spark a renaissance of French couture, and become the start of a fashion empire with willing models from sections of royalty, aristocracy and Hollywood.
He would become known for dramatic evening dresses and sweeping, glamourous ball gowns which experimented with volume and form.
“In a machine age, dressmaking is one of the last refuges of the human, the personal, the inimitable,” Dior said.
“Finally, everything that has been part of my life, whether I wanted it to or not, has expressed itself in my dresses.”