Photos by Jehadu Abshiro

French designer Christian Dior’s debut “New Look” collection was so feminine and fantastically decadent it drove some women to the streets to protest. But here in Dallas, more is more. 

Dior came to Dallas for the first time in 1947 to accept the “Oscar of fashion,” a Neiman Marcus award. Dior developed a lasting friendship with Stanley Marcus, and in turn, Dallas. More than 70 years later, the House of Dior is back in Dallas, telling a story that’s influenced multiple cultures and generations. 

Photo courtesy of Dior.

Why else would Dallasites valet their cars, arrive in black tie and worship at the sacred vault of the Dallas Museum of Art? The “Dior: From Paris to the World” exhibit boasts nearly 200 couture gowns, four major paintings and countless archival photos, videos and accessories in 11 rooms. Two rooms are split between Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and current designer Maria Grazia Chiuri. 

The centerpiece is Barrel Vault, in which a cathedral-like catwalk has 80-plus dresses from all seven designers. “Dior’s Ladies” features gowns worn by starlets such as Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly and Rihanna. 

The exhibit, originally curated by Florence Müller and presented in the Denver Art Museum, is an extension of the 2017 “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams” show in Paris. The Dallas exhibit was led by Sarah Schleuning, the Margot B. Perot senior curator of decorative arts and design and an East Dallas neighbor. New York designer Shohei Shigematsu contributed to the installation, which includes scaffolding, mirrored walls, gold-toned floors and complex lighting. This is the DMA’s third fashion exhibit. Schleuning curated Dallas’ “Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion” in 2017 while she was in Atlanta as curator at the High Museum of Art. 

Photo by Misael Rodriguez.

What’s the most interesting part of presenting the Dior collection?

I was able to envelop myself in this incredible world of 72-plus years of the history of Dior, from historic to contemporary. All these incredible stories germinated from the collection, including the great connection to Dallas itself. I also loved working with the DMA’s own collection to find incredible connections to pair with those in the Dior exhibition.

How do you think the Dior show will impact museumgoers?

I hope the Dior show makes people think about the broad ideas of art and design. So many people are involved in the kind of craftsmanship and making of these incredible works of art. When you have the opportunity to look at them up close, I think people will be amazed by the incredible detail that goes into all of these pieces.

Photos courtesy of Dior.

What’s your favorite piece in the Dior collection?

It’s impossible for me to select a favorite piece, but I think my favorite part of the show, and probably one that we worked the hardest on, was just the various vantage points that you have when you walk through. We wanted to make sure you could see as many possible angles of the work. I love the kind of exciting juxtapositions that come across.

What are you looking for in a piece when curating an exhibit?

It all depends on the exhibition. Context is everything. I work in art museums. Aesthetics matter, and it needs to hold people’s attention. 

Why did you choose to focus on decorative arts and design?

I liked the combination of aesthetics and function. I liked focusing on historic material and what they mean to people.

What appealed to you about the Dallas art scene?

Dallas is a vibrant and exciting scene. One of the things that makes it so appealing is how open and diverse the community is. The community is excited to experience new ideas. 

What’s your favorite part of living in the M Streets neighborhood?

I love the M Streets because it has such a great community feeling, and people have been really welcoming. It’s a great neighborhood.

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