Christian Dior was a man who made “women feel like women again” after the Second World War. His eponymous original exhibit unveiled at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum. The exhibit features a luxurious collection of dresses that showcases the revival of the feminine silhouette. Forty of the garments present were donated by Toronto and Montréal socialites.

The senior curator of the exhibit, Alexandra Palmer, who holds a Ph.D. in design history, draws upon years of research. The exhibit’s focus spans from the opening of Dior’s couture house in 1947 to his untimely death in 1957. Sponsored by Holt Renfrew, Christian Dior coincides with the celebration of the couture house’s 70th anniversary.

Less than two years after the Second World War, Dior released his first haute couture collection. In contrast to the wartime’s masculine, more practical clothing, Dior’s design brought back the soft shoulders, corset cinched waists, and long full skirts of the 19th century. While tight fitting and impractical dresses tend not to appeal to women today, or to some women of the time, Dior referred to his design as the “look of peace… [reflecting] the times.” Part of Dior’s success came with the revival of what life was like before the war. However, Dior went a step further by taking remnants of past fashion statements and combining them with modern elements—including new designs, cuts, and materials.

After a curatorial statement, viewers are greeted by an elegant evening dress. The dim lighting and calm music added to the evening’s relaxed atmosphere. Then, a stunning, red cocktail dress called “Délphine” is placed under the spotlight and catches the attention of the audience.

In terms of the exhibit’s organization, the dresses are arranged from daytime to evening wear, but the open concept room allows one to see the dresses from multiple angles. Like Dior’s style, Palmer merges the traditional and modern by using interactive computer screens depicting sewing techniques. Original sketchbooks with textile samples are also shown at the exhibit. Along with dresses and suits, Palmer’s exhibit features shoes, jewelry, as well as several perfume bottles. One of the bottles had a gold bouquet of flowers incorporated into its design.

The Christian Dior exhibition premiered at the ROM on November 25 and will run until March 18.

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