A red dress

Dior Gown

  • Artist: John Galliano
  • Date: Spring/Summer 2011
  • Materials: Tulle and silk
  • Dimensions: Bust 83cm, Waist 57cm, Hip 87cm
  • Accession Number: 2012.22.1.1-2
  • Sponsor/Donor: Louise Hawley Stone Charitable Trust
  • Copyright: ROM/Dior
  • ROM Location: Storage

Passage #5 was designed by John Galliano for Christian Dior Haute Couture. This dramatic coat-dress was inspired by fashion illustrator Rene Gruau’s drawings of the 1940s and 1950s and is a 21st century reworking of Dior’s 1947 New Look. Passage #5 was the highlight of Dior’s Spring/Summer 2011 collection. It was the last and most technically challenging collection by John Galliano, head fashion designer of Christian Dior.

Passage #5 is a stunning one-piece coat-dress and belt from Dior’s Spring/Summer 2011 collection. The dress required more than 166 metres of cloth, took more than 500 hours to make and employed a myriad of workers and skills drawn from the Dior ateliers and ancillary couture industries.

Visually, the Passage #5 dress is graduated from light to dark and shaded with layers of tulle over the red silk faille, from one side to the other, just as a light from one side would cause shadows.

After viewing Dior Illustrated: Rene Gruau and the Line of Beauty exhibition held in Somerset House, London (2010-11), Galliano drew his inspiration for Dior’s Spring/Summer 2011 collection from Gruau’s designs, created when Gruau was Dior’s artistic director of advertising in the late 1940s

Passage #5 encapsulates Christian Dior’s 1947 New Look silhouette in the dramatic collar, soft shoulders, padded hips, small waist, and full skirt, made in the classic Dior Rouge, a deep rich red that appeared repeatedly in Dior’s collections throughout the 1950s. The design also relies upon the specialized skills of the top Paris fournisseurs (artisan suppliers) to be pleaded, beaded, and painted. Each piece of the dress, requiring specialized work, was transported across Paris to the required atelier.

In addition to the ROM’s commission of Passage #5, the ROM also commissioned a film which documents the process of turning flat cloth into the coat-dress. The film illustrates the complex craft system of haute couture that relies upon time, coordination, and expert skilled artisans working together, in a fashion system that was established in the late 17th century. The remarkable garment is the antithesis of today’s so-called “fast fashion,” clothing that is fast to make, fast to sell, cheap to buy, and considered disposable.

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