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Postwar Posh

"What did the weight of my sumptuous materials, my heavy velvets and brocades matter?" said Christian Dior in 1948...

“What did the weight of my sumptuous materials, my heavy velvets and brocades matter?” said Christian Dior in 1948, reflecting on the years of optimism following World War II. “When hearts were light, mere fabrics could not weigh the body down.”

London’s Victoria and Albert Museum will pay tribute to Dior—and his colleagues of the postwar period—in “The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957,” which runs from Sept. 22 until Jan. 6. The show will highlight postwar fashion in the two European capitals and the legendary impact of Dior’s 1947 New Look. More than 100 dresses by Dior, Balenciaga, Balmain, Chanel, Hardy Amies and Norman Hartnell have been culled for the show. “It’s very intensive,” says curator Claire Wilcox, adding she hopes it will help museumgoers understand more about the social and economic history of the period.

Wilcox is hoping, too, that the Zemire, a legendary Christian Dior dress from 1954 with a full skirt and long jacket, will be restored in time for the show. It was bought at auction by the V&A when it was discovered last year in a Paris cellar. Before that, the dress had only been seen in photographs. “It’s undergoing intense restoration,” Wilcox says optimistically. “It had been used for amateur dramatics and was water stained.”