By  on May 15, 2007

GRANVILLE, France — Blowing out another candle on its 60th anniversary cake, Christian Dior feted the opening of its latest exhibition, &"Dior: 60 Years High on Color," at its museum here Friday.

The show, which runs through Sept. 23, explores nine of the house&'s signature codes in the hands of its five designers, from Christian Dior to John Galliano. The event coincides with the English-language release of Dior&'s style bible, the &"Little Dictionary of Fashion," which was originally published in 1954.

The trickle-down effect of Dior&'s codes into other areas such as jewelry and shoes plays as a side note to the exhibition, notably via a display of the house&'s landmark beauty launches. These are mainly housed in cabinets in the winter garden. Highlights include Dior&'s first scent, the urn-shaped Miss Dior flacon from 1947, whose curvy lines evoked Dior&'s New Look silhouette, and the house&'s original raging red lipstick, launched in 1955, that came packaged in a striking glass obelisk-shaped casing.

Also on display is the house&'s defunct Visiora beauty set that was created for makeup professionals of the movie world in 1982.

Dior&'s treasured Granville-inspired hues, pink and gray, open the show on the ground floor, paired with variations on the bow and the houndstooth print, from a Galliano gown adorned with bows to a flamboyant houndstooth coat by Gianfranco Ferré that sports an oversized bow at the neck.

&"First and foremost, we want visitors to remember they&'re entering what was once Dior&'s home," said curator Jean-Luc Dufresne, a distant cousin of the designer, gesturing to an oil painting of the late designer&'s aunt, Alexandra, that hangs in the ground-floor hall, a sparse wood-floored space dotted with antique furniture.

Glass-walled showcases have replaced what were once rooms. In one corner stands a vast, early 20th-century Japanese cabinet filled with Baroque costume jewelry provided by the Opera Garnier.

&"Much of Dior&'s costume jewelry has its roots in dramatic stage jewelry, in particular those pieces by Galliano," said Daniele Fouache, head of jewelry for the Opera Garnier.Meanwhile, three pink gowns stand in what used to be the office of Dior&'s father, its walls lined with original gouache paintings of the house&'s original beauty campaigns by René Gruau.

It&'s curious to think this former office that Dior loathed while growing up, a room he associated with the shrill ring of his father&'s telephone, has morphed into a showroom for some of his most sugary designs such as Fete, a Belle Epoque-inspired gown from spring-summer 1948.

Upstairs in Dior&'s childhood bedroom, a sea of green gowns, ranging from absinthe to emerald hues, has taken up residence. &"It&'s a place of memories on several levels," said Dufresne. &"If anything, this exhibition highlights the importance for a house to protect its lineage."

The exhibition is a chance to peruse rare pieces typically kept under lock and key by collectors. Elsewhere, visitors are treated to a visual to-and-fro between original design sketches — tacked with fabric swatches and scribbled with the name of the garment&'s maker and model-to-be — and the final product in one of the surrounding vitrines.

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