Photography of the legendary designs of Christian Dior and its enduring impact on fashion

'Looking Over Shoulder’, Marilyn Monroe, Los Angeles, 1962, Bert Stern © The Bert Stern Trust. All images courtesy of Proud Central.

The House of Dior is renowned for revitalising both haute couture and ready-to-wear fashion in the 20th-century and its legacy continues to inspire modern style. Now you can see its impact in a new exhibition at Proud Central in London this February, featuring photography of the legendary designs of Christian Dior.

The Dior Collection documents the remarkable brand throughout its first two decades and includes the iconic works of Mark Shaw, Norman Parkinson, Jerry Schatzberg and Bert Stern. From the polished editorial shots capturing famous figures for Life magazine to behind-the-scenes studio snapshots, the exhibition explores the creation of the revolutionary luxury brand and its reinvention of the female silhouette.

Since creating his namesake fashion company in 1946, Christian Dior has become recognised as one of the founding figures of haute couture. After a meeting with entrepreneur Marcel Boussac, Christian Dior was invited to design for Philippe et Gaston, a Paris fashion house. Dior, who had been working in fashion for almost ten years, instead launched a new label under his own name, and with Boussac’s approval and sponsorship, the House of Dior was born.

In 1947, Christian Dior presented his first show, ‘Corolle’. Fabric rationing from the Second World War had ended and Dior relished an opportunity to step away from the conservational silhouettes of wartime styles, calling them "hideous and repellent". His new, fresh designs presented in ‘Corolle’ became synonymous with the feminine and voluptuous.

The show made the cover of Life magazine and was dubbed “The New Look” by Harper’s Bazaar, who described the designs as “a curving, opulent day silhouette that is the most elegant fashion for decades". Following Christian Dior’s death in 1957 and for the remainder of the decade, Christian Dior’s protégé Yves Saint Laurent took full creative control of the brand. YSL was nicknamed “The Little Prince of Fashion” by the press and his first show, a mere three months after Dior’s death, was given a standing ovation. In 1960, Marc Bohan's takeover was just as revitalising to the brand, as he “refined the lines, lengthened the silhouette and defined a look of dynamic femininity, freed of all constraints” (House of Dior).

Through the lens of four photographers, The Dior Collection explores the rich heritage and metamorphosis of Christian Dior throughout its early years, as well as its legacy and impact on the fashion industry. It runs from 7 February until 7 April at Proud Central, London.

‘Travel in Style’, Wenda Parkinson, Paris, 1949, Norman Parkinson © Norman Parkinson / Iconic Images

‘Travel in Style’, Wenda Parkinson, Paris, 1949, Norman Parkinson © Norman Parkinson / Iconic Images

‘Dior Gown with Fur Hat,’ Paris, 1954, Mark Shaw © Mark Shaw / mptvimages.com

‘Dior Gown with Fur Hat,’ Paris, 1954, Mark Shaw © Mark Shaw / mptvimages.com

‘Elizabeth Taylor in Yellow with Ivy, Side 1’, 1961, Mark Shaw © Mark Shaw / mptvimages.com

‘Elizabeth Taylor in Yellow with Ivy, Side 1’, 1961, Mark Shaw © Mark Shaw / mptvimages.com

‘Coming’, London, 1958, Norman Parkinson © Norman Parkinson / Iconic Images

‘Coming’, London, 1958, Norman Parkinson © Norman Parkinson / Iconic Images

‘Marc Bohan on a shoot for Vogue’, 1974, Norman Parkinson © Norman Parkinson / Iconic Images

‘Marc Bohan on a shoot for Vogue’, 1974, Norman Parkinson © Norman Parkinson / Iconic Images