Golden oldies arrive in Melbourne for NGV celebration of couture


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At the same time as Melbourne was hosting the 1956 Olympics, a Christian Dior gown reminiscent of a glimmering gold medal was making its first appearance. 

On Thursday, that gown, from the autumn-winter collection of 1956, was in the white-gloved hands of curators at the National Gallery of Victoria as they began the delicate unpacking process for theHouse of Dior: 70 Years of Haute Couture exhibition. 

The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture

Exclusive to Melbourne, the exhibition will feature a display of over 140 garments from Christian Dior Couture designed 1947 to 2017. Video: Supplied

Against the backdrop of the NGV’s Dutch galleries, the curatorial team, headed by Katie Somerville, offered a sneak preview of the 140 garments that will feature in the show, which opens on August 27. 

Somerville said five staff from the Dior archives in Paris had flown to Melbourne to help with the unpacking and installation of the exhibition. 

“As couture is custom made for a specific client, every dress is slightly different from each other and they also reflect 70 years of changing fashion styles and silhouettes,” Somerville said. 

“Therefore every mannequin requires its own meticulous preparation, including skilful padding and sculpting to achieve the correct shape and silhouette.”

Other garments on display on Thursday included a ball gown from the 2017 spring summer collection by Maria Grazia Chiuri​, the current and first female creative director of the house. 

“As we delicately unpack these priceless garments, hats, shoes and archive material, the exhibition itself is slowly coming to life around the workroom,” Somerville said. 

Dior’s connection to Australia runs deep, with Sydney’s David Jones store the first place outside of Paris to host a show of the full collection, in July 1948. 

On Wednesday night David Jones paid homage to Dior with a 1940s-style raised catwalk part of its summer launch parade in Sydney. 

The Saturday night prior to the exhibition opening, hundreds of guests will attend a gala cocktail party being billed as Melbourne’s answer to the Met Gala, with New Zealand singer Kimbra set to perform. 

The House of Dior: 79 Years of Haute Couture runs from August 27-November 7.

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