Christian Dior McCord Museum

Cocktail dress, Delphine, Christian Dior, 1956. Gift of Mrs. Harry Davidson. ROM 961.87.3 © Laziz Hamani

The McCord Museum showcases Christian Dior’s fashion revolution

The New Look in all its glory.

After showcasing post-war Italian fashion with Eleganza in 2016 and the work of Spanish designer Cristóbal Balenciaga in 2018, the McCord Museum is mounting a major exhibition of the first decade of Christian Dior, who revived Parisian haute couture after WWII. The French designer’s “New Look” laid waste to the masculine silhouette that preceded it, revolutionizing the world of high fashion and trickling down to the mainstream worldwide.

Christian Dior McCord Museum Montreal
Cocktail dress, Delphine, Christian Dior, 1956. Gift of Mrs. Harry Davidson. ROM 961.87.3 © Laziz Hamani

The items in this collection of daytime and evening wear, all made between 1947 and 1957, come from the Royal Ontario Museum, McCord’s own collection and Dior Héritage in Paris. The exhibition highlights “Dior’s iconic lines, luxury textiles and romantic embroideries” as well as the fashion house’s “exquisite craftsmanship, intricate detail and inspired designs.”

“Dior’s impact on the silhouette of the late 1940s and 1950s was unprecedented, and the cut of his garments and their craftsmanship were exquisite,” says Cynthia Cooper, curator and head of collections and research for McCord’s Dress, Fashion and Textiles. “Each garment tells the story of a creative process inspired by yards of luxury fabric and a wealth of expertise. This exhibition provides an exceptional opportunity to see the work of this renowned couture house up close and relive a pivotal decade in fashion.” 

Christian Dior McCord Museum Montreal
Formal evening dress, Isabelle, Christian Dior, 1948. Gift of Mrs. David Meltzer. ROM 961.136.1 © Royal Ontario Museum

To complement the Dior exhibition, the museum has enlisted Montreal designer Helmer Joseph to recreate three Dior evening gowns using paper patterns from the house of Dior dating from the late 1950s. Joseph, a Haitian-born Montrealer who has worked for Louis Vuitton and Chloé as well as Dior, will recreate the gowns known as Bella, Dolores and Arthenice by himself, employing the techniques specific to haute couture of that era. ■

This feature was originally published in the September issue of Cult MTL. The Christian Dior exhibition is on at McCord Museum (690 Sherbrooke W.) from Sept. 25 to Jan. 3, 2021, $19/$17 seniors/$14 students, free for Indigenous people, reduced prices on Wednesday after 5 p.m. Tickets should be purchased online in advance.

For more Montreal arts coverage, please visit our Arts section.