Christian Dior (French, 19051957)
Gray silk net embroidered with feather–shaped opalescent sequins, rhinestones, simulated pearls, and paillettes; (a) L. at center front 10 in. (25.4 cm), (b) L. at center back 49 in. (124.5 cm), (c) L. 180 in. (456.2 cm), (d,e) dimensions not available
Gift of Mrs. Byron C. Foy, 1953 (C.I.53.40.7a–e)
This extraordinary ball gown by Christian Dior, of foggy gray silk tulle, arrayed with an overlay of scallop-shaped petals, is called "Venus." The bodice and shell forms of its skirt are embellished with nacreous paillettes and sequins, iridescent seed beads, aurora-borealis crystals, and pearls. The glittering overskirt and train adumbrate both the seashell motif and the crescent wave patterns of Botticelli's Venus. Dior is best known for his revival of the wasp-waisted silhouette seen here. His celebrated first collection of 1947 was dubbed the "New Look" by the influential American editor Carmel Snow, because the corseted, full-bosomed, and hourglass shaping had not been seen for decades. In fact, the "New Look" was an old look revived. After the deprivations of World War II, Dior believed that the survival of the haute couture relied on its ability to restore fantasy and luxury to women's wardrobes. The fragile effects of this gown, which merges Second Empire romanticism with the classical iconography of ideal and eternal beauty, recall Dior's belief that "fashion comes from a dream."