Recently Revealed Dior Dress, Created By The Young Yves Saint Laurent, To Be Displayed At The Bowes Museum This Summer

A recently revealed Christian Dior dress, which was made by Yves Saint Laurent whilst he was the art director of the House of Dior at the age of 22, is to go on display at The Bowes Museum this summer as part of the forthcoming Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal exhibition.

The exquisite bright pink silk cocktail dress, which has been in storage for many decades, will add a further dimension to this eagerly awaited show. Designed by Yves Saint Laurent for Dior’s 1958 Haute Couture autumn/winter collection, it was presented to Princess Margaret during a private catwalk show at Blenheim Palace in November 1958. The fashion show was before an audience invited by the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and held in aid of the British Red Cross Society. The collection of 100 designs included one namedBlenheim which was designed especially for the Princess.

During the fashion show, the model who was wearing the pink dress famously almost lost her hat and the moment was captured for posterity by the worldwide media. The dress, along with the Pathé film footage will form part of the Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternalexhibition and after more than fifty years the spotlight will once again shine on this sensational design.

The cocktail dress was recently rediscovered in storage at the Palais Galliera, Musée de la Mode de la Ville in Paris, and following days of research, the Musée confirmed it was the dress, named Zéphirine. Its provenance has been established by the evidence below, confirming that the dress is the original prototype presented on the 1958 catwalk, as displayed in photographs taken at Blenheim Palace:

  • The dress was bought by a Mrs Roederer in 1960 from the House of Dior, 18 months after its collection debut, indicating that it would have been purchased during the sales, as is widely practised in couture houses in Paris, which used to sell prototypes of previous shows.
  • The dress has no tag, typical of a prototype.
  • The dress has several ‘holes’ on the bodice that could be attributed to the pin of a brooch; these can be seen at the same place on the dress on all photographs and documents, which contributed to the identification.
  • The dress at the parade was worn by the most famous model of the House of Christian Dior, Victoire Doutreleau, known for her tiny waist (around 48cms/19 inches), the same measurement as the dress retained by the Musée.

Pierre Bergé, President of the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent said: “We are very pleased to have been able to restore this dress in collaboration with the Palais Galliera and The Bowes Museum. The upcoming exhibition at the Bowes will be an opportunity to reveal and celebrate a significant piece of work from Yves Saint Laurent’s early career.”

Joanna Hashagen, Curator of Fashion & Textiles at The Bowes Museum, said: “The identification and conservation of this dress by our colleagues at Palais Galliera is really exciting, especially as we know that it is the dress worn on 12 November 1958. We await the unveiling of the dress at The Bowes Museum with real anticipation.”

The gown is currently undergoing conservation supported by the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Dior Patrimoine and The Bowes Museum, before taking its place in the forthcoming Yves Saint-Laurent: Style is Eternal which opens at The Bowes Museum on Saturday 11th July, running until Sunday 25th October.

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