Wednesday, January 30, 2013

History’s Runway: La Ligne Libre; “Belgique,” 1957

Dior, 1957
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This opulent, but, delicate, dress was designed by Christian Dior (1905-57) in 1957, the year of his death. The gown was commissioned by the Baroness Alain de Rothschild to wear for the state visit of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip to Paris in April of 1957.

The 1957 state visit was the most important event of the 1957 Parisian social calendar. Couturiers were flooded with commissions for evening gowns and gala dresses. Lady Gladwyn, the wife of the British Ambassador, noted that even the Queen’s dresses could not compete with the grandeur of the gowns of the French society ladies.

We should note that Dior’s dress was originally white. Now, it appears to be an off shade of gray. That’s simply because it’s dirty with age. So, why not clean it? It is treated with a stiffening agent that would be destroyed by cleaning of any kind. So, in order to preserve the gown, it must remain as it is.

The gown features a strapless bodice and a full, gathered skirt. Net is draped around the bodice and a tulle fichu adds fullness around the shoulders, attaching at the front. The boned bodice has a cream silk lining.

Originally, the gown had a long satin ribbon tied in a bow, attached to the bodice at the point the fichu collar meets. The original ribbon is lost. However, at a photo shoot for the V&A in 2006, a light green ribbon was added to approximate what was originally there.

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