Fashion and Style, Inside the Museum

Dior: L’anthologie

By: Petra Slinkard
Jun 22 2017

Two years ago, Christian Dior in Paris submitted a request for an inventory of our Dior holdings. The House was compiling an anthology to honor the seventieth anniversary of the company, celebrating the work of the seven couturiers who have led the House of Dior since its founding in 1947.

This was a big request, as the Chicago History Museum owns more than two hundred garments representing the House of Dior. But, we were in luck! University of Illinois graduate student Corie Azem took on the task as part of her museum studies practicum (read her blog post about one of her exceptional finds). Over the course of three months, she inventoried and photographed our entire Dior collection and created a detailed database that we shared with the Parisian House. After reviewing our holdings, the company requested twenty of our pieces for consideration for their seven-volume anthology.

To create a comprehensive anthology, the House looked to a number of collections around the world, including the Henry Ford Museum in suburban Detroit, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. Then they sent customized dress forms to each location and arranged for the prominent Parisian photographer Laziz Hamani to photograph the works onsite.

Contracted mount maker Emma Denny readies the Dior gowns for photography.

After careful assessment by Museum conservator Holly Lundberg, dressing commenced. Over the course of two weeks, mount maker Emma Denny and costume collection manager Jessica Pushor readied the looks for Monsieur Hamani’s arrival. Museum staff then created a customized photography studio in the Museum’s Carola and Leon Mandel Conference Room to accommodate the two-day shoot.

Studio set-up in CHM’s Mandel conference room.

To make this most of this opportunity, Museum staff then sent some of the garments into our photography studio to capture and document pieces not included in the 2008 exhibition Dior: The New Look. Photography is an essential step in our process so that we can continue to add to and update the Museum’s online collection portal.

Costume collection manager Jessica Pushor adjusts a 1953 Nuit Lumineuse dress by Christian Dior. Gift of Mrs. Thomas H. Fisher (Ruth Page). 1969.934

The 1953 Nuit Lumineuse dress in volume one.

We are pleased to announce that several examples from the Museum’s Christian Dior collection made the final cut. Our Diors will appear in the first three volumes, which are dedicated to Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, and Marc Bohan. Volume one, released in May 2017, includes nine of our pieces.

The forthcoming volume two features one of our garments on the cover: a 1958 trapeze afternoon dress in mohair by YSL for Christian Dior. Volumes four to seven, honoring the work of Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons, and Maria Grazia Chiuri, will be released in the next two years.

This collaboration is just one of the many ways the Museum promotes our costume collection as a means of connecting people through the study of fashion.

Petra Slinkard is the curator of costume at the Chicago History Museum.

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