From the Guardian: Dress yarn sheds light on haute couture:
Few dresses have as intriguing a tale to tell as the 53-year-old Dior Zemire ensemble which stars in the Victoria and Albert’s imminent exhibition of 1940s and 1950s haute couture. Not only does this dress illustrate the story of how dressmaking was replaced by ready-to-wear fashion, but its history features flooded cellars next to the Seine, a spell in an amateur dramatic dressing-up box, a chance discovery at auction – and a mystery eventually solved thanks to a Guardian article.
More telling is a revisionist perspective I’ve always known to be true -simply because logic dictates it had to be- but proof was lost amid the drone of mythinformation.
The significance of Agota Sekers’s Zemire stems from the fact that it is made in bright pink cellulose acetate, while the catwalk version was in pale grey silk satin with mink trim at the cuffs. This radical departure from Dior’s vision contradicts the traditional view of haute couture as an ivory tower in which the designer’s creativity is paramount, and commercial concerns secondary. Cellulose acetate was one of the modern, technical fabrics in which Miki Sekers specialised, and Agota would order couture pieces made in eyecatching shades of these fabrics in order to use her wardrobe to advertise the Sekers business, a marketing device in which Christian Dior was happy to collude.
The Zemire is just one example by which the V&A exhibition shows that haute couture in the postwar period, far from being an archaic and closed world, “set the model for today’s fashion industry,” as Ms Wilcox puts it. She describes haute couture as “the business of selling ideas,” and the show highlights Christian Dior as not just a designer, but a visionary businessman adept at turning fantasy into products.
Curated by the esteemed Claire Wilcox, the exhibition The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957 runs 22 September 2007 – 6 January 2008 at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Here’s to hoping one of our UK visitors will offer a trip report of the event.