The Dior Exhibit | The McCord Museum

Monday, July 5, 2021
690 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Montréal, QC H3A 1E9, Canada
Original Dior Garments at the Exhibit at The McCord Museum post by Plaid and Sugar

After almost a year of waiting, I finally got to see the Dior exhibit at the McCord Museum in Montreal. It was an amazing and phenomenal experience as there were dozens of garments exhibited from daywear to cocktail to evening gowns. 

All were designed by Christian Dior between 1946-1957 and I'll be certainly be going again at least twice before the exhibit ends. 

Keep on reading to all the beautiful, and impressive, dresses and learn about when and how you can see the Dior Exhibit. It also meant that one of my dreams was fulfilled, which was to see original 1940/50s Dior garments in person!!

Visiting and gazing at original house of Dior garments at an exhibit in Montreal

Heads up: this post contains lots of gushing and pictures! 

The Dior exhibit covers all of the second floor of the McCord Museum and it showcases dozens of garments made by the House of Dior before the 1960s. It includes cocktail, day, and evening wear plus some it also had smaller exhibits showcasing Christian Dior's revolutionary undergarments and splendid embroidery.

Because of the low lighting at the exhibit I had to use night mode on my phone to take pictures, which unfortunately do not capture the sharpness of the garments or any specific details. 

The Dior Exhibit at The McCord Museum

A while back (when I lived out west) I heard that there was a temporary Dior Exhibit in Toronto but because I was across the country I wasn't able to see it but then in early 2020 it was announced that the McCord Museum would be hosting it and I was ecstatic!

For those who do not know, Christian Dior was a French fashion designer who revolutionized modern fashion and is one of the world's most famous designers. 

And he was one of my favorite designers and one of my goals, when I was young, was to see original Dior designs face to face. 

Visiting the Dior Exhibit in Montreal at the McCord Museum post by Plaid and Sugar

As I mentioned, I had to wait almost a year to attend the exhibit because it was supposed to open in June 2020 but then the virus happened and so it was postponed for September.  

Unfortunately, a week after it opened the second wave hit, and all non-essentials were shut down and it seemed like my childhood dreams were not going to come true.


But then, after reopening in February, it was announced that the exhibit would be extended until mid-September instead of ending in May. So if you're planning on being in Montreal this summer and love fashion then absolutely recommend visiting this exhibit. You won't regret it!

Back when I thought of being a fashion designer, one of my teenhood dreams was to see original garments Dior New Look collection, and finally became a reality.

Visiting the Dior Exhibit at the McCord Museum in Montreal



I kid you not that I could not stop smiling underneath my mask when I entered the exhibit. I was in full-blown happy and exciting mode. Not just because of seeing original New Look garments but also because it had been, a long, while since I had gone to a museum

Above: Covers of the 1940s fashion magazines advertising the New Look from French designer Christian Dior. 

Pre-pandemic I used to go often to museums or other big events/exhibits and so going to the McCord Museum felt like the old days. So yeah, it was definitely a moving experience for me.

The exhibition was divided into three parts: daywear & cocktail, embroidery & details, and evening wear. So will start off at the beginning...

day wear & cocktail dresses. 


Dior's daywear and cocktail collection covered about half of the exhibit, and it makes sense because Dior's New Look centered on the average woman. In the sense that it was more likely, and it still is, that a woman would afford/wear a day dress than an evening gown. 

Most of the dresses are simple in design and style but the accessories and fabrics elevate the look making them look like nothing else. 


Love the fabric detail at the front of the Delphine cocktail dress from the 1956 collection. Next to it is a muslin (or toile) of a future garment and it showcases the techniques used to achieve a certain look. 


Love the collar and the pristine cut of this coat. If I had the opportunity I so would wear this!


An original Christan Dior Paris clothing label on a coat. 


The classic pencil skirt dress. The silk gloves make it looks oh so fancy.



The waist to hip ration is one of the defining features of Dior's New Look  collection and it can be seen in this plum velvety dress. Also, I wan to know how that collar was made! 


If you've been reading my blog for a while, then you know I love tartans and plaids (its even in the blog name!). So it won't be a surprise that this dress immediately caught my eye and fell in love with it. Compared to the other dresses in the Dior Exhibit, this garment is quite simple in design but the fabric gives it a pop!


Another of my favorite cocktail outfits was this little black dress pictured above. 

I love the little capelet, the cut of the design, and the front closure which puzzled me. If I were a better seamstress I would attempt to make my own.  Can you just imagine how classy and cute it'd look?

Surprisingly the sparkly dress below looks better on camera (with night mode) than in person! The night mode makes the shiny embroidery pop, and the texture of the fabric much more noticeable.

The Dior Exhibit at The McCord Museum


Undergarments revolutionized by Christian Dior for the New Look,  Dior Exhibit by Plaid and Sugar

The undergarments revolutionized by Christian Dior gave style to that classic 1950s look. Dior brought back the corset (and 19th century inspired undergarments) into the closet of the mid-20th century woman. 

The Dior Exhibit at The McCord Museum




Fun fact: For all those wondering how the museum prevents people from touching the dresses and gowns, they use sensor alarms. That means that if you lean too close to the garments/exhibit, it will BEEP loudly. 

And I mean LOUDLY, I learned that the hard way when I accidentally leaned too close to take pictures of Dior's creations. But it is a neat way for people to look at the dresses without risking damage or touching. 


As mentioned about half the exhibit focused on day/cocktail dresses and then it delved into the details. Specifically, embroidery, design, and details that make a Dior garment Dior!

embroidery and tiny details


The second part of the exhibition was mainly about embroidery, specifically about the hard work and details that went into decorating evening dresses or any other exquisite garments. 

One of Dior's goals was to make women feel beautiful and feminine again after having to be frugal and thrifty about fabric usage (among other things) due to WWII and with new designs and exquisite embroidery he was able to get this point accorss. 

Embroidery of Dior Garments, Plaid and Sugar






Pictured above is a 1948 evening coat, known as Pondichery, embroidered with a beautiful pattern of butterflies and flowers.

 

This is what it looks like when worn. Tell me you wouldn't feel like a million dollars wearing such a coat over the black pencil skirt dress. I'd probably never take it off!

Photo courtesy of the McCord Museum 



If you keep reading, you'll see the gown pictured above in its (almost) full glory. But before you get there, note how many beads and threads it took to make this! 

The picture below, explains which three embroidery companies Dior used to embellish the garments. Including Maison Hurel, Maison Rebe, and Ginisty et Quenelle




In this section, some notebooks, ledgers, and designs of Dior that shared the process and attention that the designer put into each of his designs. Including textile (fabric) manufacturers, seamstresses, and beaders. Some famous houses of embroidery were Maison Hurel which is a company that still creates beautiful fabrics and gorgeous embroidery. 

ball gowns & evening gowns 


The third and final segment of the Dior Exhibit was the ballgowns and evening section. There were about 15 garments showcased and all of them were just plain gorgeous. Unfortunately, the lighting was dim-ish and night mode photography only goes so far, so the dark/black dresses came out not like in person. 

Below is Dior's Cygne Noir (Black Swan) evening dress from his 1949 collection.  The picture cannot capture the drape of the fabric or the crispiness of the seams. This would be the dress for the annual Christmas or New Year party. Stunning everyone in sight!


Made in 1952 the Palmyre embroidered gown (shown below) was my favorite evening wear garment. The embroidery is absolutely amazing especially considering how it was all handmade in Italy as seen in the small embroidery gown section of the exhibit. 


The design reminds me of blue + white porcelain china and looks so delicate, plus the cut of the pattern/silhouette is stunning and I want it. 

If it ever went missing, you'd probably find it in my closet! For legal reasons, I'm kidding of course. 


A close up. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a closer picture and this shot doesn't fully do it justice. 


The back is as detailed and exquisitely embroidered as the front. 

Now for the other embroidered dress that reminded me of a sugarplum fairy.


The Venus ballgown was made/designed in 1949 and is made of silk, sequins, and embroidered in such a way that it reminded me of the shininess and delicateness of firefly wings. 

The Dior Exhibit at The McCord Museum in Montreal




Can you tell I was happy?

Other evening gowns were showcased in the room. And while not as eye-catching as the embroidered gowns, the complexity of the design and architecture of the dresses make these gowns also spectacular. 








On one of the walls of this room, there was a large projector showcasing videos of Dior's catwalks in the 1940s-50s and details of all the evening dresses. 


I enjoyed seeing the models on the catwalk because it helped me realize how dramatic the dresses, whether evening or day, were especially considering it was right after WWII ended and women had gone through a long period of being frugal and thrifty with their fabrics/garments. 

Perfumes, Jewelry, and Shoes

There was a small exhibit room that showcased accessories made by Maison Dior, including jewelry, shoes, and perfumes. 


Dior Diamond bow chocker exhibited the McCord Museum

Isn't this bow choker so cute? I can imagine wearing it with the black capelet dress with a matching bracelet. 


Other jewelry pieces showcased


Original Miss Dior Perfume Bottle The Dior Exhibit at The McCord Museum

Miss Dior perfume, named after Christan Dior's sister,  in a hand-blown glass bottle. For its debut1947, it was showcased in a tiny pantheon that was a copy of Marie Antoinette's "Pantheon of Love". 


Some other perfumes in beautiful hand-blown bottles and a fan.




The luxury goods store Holt Renfrew was given the license of the Dior brand to make Dior garments here in Montreal as it had a big population of buyers in Canada and was easier (and cheaper) than exporting them from New York or Paris. 


Leather shoes made for Maison de Dior. It was hard to get a picture of the other pairs of shoes but from looking at these you can gather that they are tiny. And they are! Which made me wonder, were all the models and women who bought Dior shoes a US size 6?

Also, most of the garments on display that belong to the McCord Museum belonged to a lady who almost only wore Dior. Can you imagine being able to afford each Dior collection including shoes and evening gowns? But it is neat that they were donated to the museum in the late 90s because I can now enjoy them (through pictures + memories of course)!


On the first floor of the museum, near the entrance to the Wearing Our Identity exhibition, I noticed these dresses pictured below which reminded me of an important aspect of the temporary Dior Exhibit. The making of a Dior gown. 


These dresses shown above were sewn by Montreal fashion designer Helmer Joseph using original Dior patterns!


The three dresses are made with haute couture techniques and were the perfect addition to the exhibition as they highlighted the ingenuity and methods of sewing to achieve certain shapes, styles, and pleats. 



The McCord Museum, who commissioned the dresses,  made a short video showing the process from pattern to dress and it was interesting to see how it all came about and the complexity of the process. Check it out here!

Finally, it was time to leave and I was sad to go. 


The garments were so detailed and expertly made that I could have spent a whole afternoon just looking at the garments to try to capture how the Dior couturiers constructed them. 

I kid you, near the end, I went back to the entrance of the exhibit just to get a final look at all the Dior garments.  It was sad to leave all those dresses behind, especially the embroidered evening gown, but I hope to go once or twice before the exhibit closes. 


If you're in Montreal this summer, I definitely recommend seeing the Dior Exhibit at The McCord Museum. So if you want to check it out, do so before it closes on September 26, 2021. It's right in the heart of Montreal, near other historic buildings, sightseeing spots, and delicious restaurants. 


Do you love haute couture or museums? Is there a dress/coat/garment that you would love to wear?


Happy July and keep an eye out for the next post 


hint: it's going to be sweet and cold!

Til next time

Loren Camila 



12 comments

  1. Wow! I absolutely love this post! I am a huge fan of this point in history and I adore all these dresses! Your photos are amazing. I certainly hope that this exhibit will make its way to Vancouver. Thank you so much for sharing!

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    1. I'm so glad that you enjoyed this post! It was a fun experience and hopefully it does make it way to BC soon.

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  2. It's so cool that you got to go to this! I love fashion, so thanks for sharing all these pictures. So stunning!

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    1. It was super fun and memorable experience and I wanted to share it with all my readers. Glad you enjoyed it, Skye!

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  3. Oh how exciting to get to attend this! It sucks you had to wait so long but I am glad you finally got to go. Your photos are great and so cool to see these vintage designer clothes from Dior. Thanks for sharing!

    Allie of
    www.allienyc.com

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    1. It was super exciting, fun and oh so worth the wait! Most of these garments are hard to find so it was great to be able to see them in person. So glad that you enjoyed the pictures, Allie!

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  4. This post is so beautiful. It's so exciting to know that you got a chance to attend this. The pictures you have shared are awesome. Really enjoyed reading about fashion history .Thanks for sharing!

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    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed this post, Harsha! It was a super exciting experience and I'm glad I could share it with you

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  5. These pictures are just beautiful, Loren! There's something so instantly recognisable about a vintage Dior, isn't there? My favourite is that plum velvet dress, it's gorgeous. Thank you for sharing your visit, it was clearly well worth the wait! x

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  6. This looks like such a cool experience! I love exhibits like this, especially when the brand is a familiar one. So many classic and elegant designs on display, I love it! Great photos.

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  7. The dress you said looked like a Sugarplum Fairy is BEAUTIFUL! Absolutely stunning. Looks like a fantastic exhibition x

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  8. It's always such an enriching and fun experience going to exhibits! These are some great pictures, Loren. Dior collection never gets old. The embroidery on that evening coat is so pretty. Thanks for sharing this! x

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