Evening ensemble comprising an under-dress, skirt, top and jacket
Designed by Christian Dior (1905-57)
Cellulose acetate satin lined with silk, tulle, net and organza
Museum no. T.24:1-5-2007
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
By the mid 1950s Christian Dior was producing around 12,000 dresses a year. His fashion house was the most successful and widely known of the post-war era, and his international sales constituted over half the Paris couture exports.
The dress shown here is called ‘Zemire’ and was part of Dior’s H-line collection of Autumn/winter 1954-5. Dior often made cultural references when christening his designs. ‘Zemire’ was named after Zémire et Azor, an opera by Grétry first performed at the royal palace of Fontainebleau in 1771. Initially, it was called ‘Fontainebleau’, but this was crossed out on the chart and replaced by ‘Zemire’. It is one of his most historical designs, echoing the shape of riding-habits, and it was successful. The original model in grey silk satin was shown to Princess Margaret at Blenheim Palace in 1954, and it appears in several magazine features. A ready-to-wear version was licensed to Susan Small, a British company that made ‘line-for-line’ copies for Harrods. It sold for 22 guineas, a fraction of what a made-to-measure version would have cost.
This ensemble was commissioned by Lady Agota Sekers, wife of the British textile manufacturer, and made in an innovative man-made fabric produced by the Sekers company.