Thursday, November 1, 2012

BIG in the ROM Costume and Textile Gallery

BIG at the ROM with John Galliano for Dior Spring/Summer 2011
Photo by Ingrid Mida 2012

This exquisite couture outfit by John Galliano for Dior from Spring/Summer 2011 is the centrepiece of the latest installation called BIG which will open at the Royal Ontario Museum's Patricia Harris Textile Gallery of Textiles and Costume on November 3, 2012.

Taking over 500 hours to complete and using 166.5 metres of cloth, this outfit was specially commissioned from the House of Dior by the ROM with the support of the Dorothy Streslin Foundation, the ROM Textiles Endowment Fund and the Louise Hawley Stone Charitable Trust.  It represents BIG in terms of being the "last and most technically challenging collection by John Galliano for Christian Dior", BIG in terms of innovation and BIG in terms of scandal. This provocative interpretation of BIG celebrates the genius that was John Galliano for Dior, but also acknowledges the embarrassing incident of racism that resulted in his being fired from the House of Dior. Not only can one see the delicate embroidery and ragged edges of the net applique on the skirt and jacket, the artistry of the staff of the atelier in constructing the gown is captured in a film clip that is adjacent to the piece.

Detail of Dior Jacket back
Photo by Ingrid Mida 2012
BIG is one of the most playful exhibitions ever seen in these galleries. This broad theme allowed the curators to highlight approximately 40 items from the enormous collection of over 50,000 costume and textile artifacts that are BIG in some way, whether it be BIG in size, message, event, innovation, time, value or impact. This simple but enchanting theme allowed integration of both textiles and high fashion items that cross cultures and span time in a thoughtful and provocative way.

Chinese embroidered slippers for bound feet
Photo by Ingrid Mida 2012
It was hard to chose a favourite from the items of fashion on display, which include a dazzling yellow sequined evening dress and shawl by Tom Ford for Yves Saint Laurent F/W 2004, a black lace evening dress from the Sarabande Collection by Alexander McQueen S/S 2007, an oversized black dress by Maison Martin Margela from F/W 2000, a digitally printed evening gown by Vivienne Tam F/W 2011, or a delicate late afternoon dress by Jean Philippe Worth c. 1905.

ROM Big Gallery View
Photo by Ingrid Mida 2012
Late afternoon Dress by Jean Philippe Worth c.1905
Photo by Ingrid Mida 2012
In the opening remarks, curator Dr. Alexandra Palmer noted that the concepts of meaning implicit in the  exhibition are important across cultures and across time - "such is our collection and such is Toronto".
She mentioned upcoming programming that will feature a full length version of the film of the making of the Dior outfit as well as speakers to address BIG issues in fashion. This is an exhibition that is BIG in ideas and BIG in execution, and definitely a MUST SEE on the fashion calendar.

Royal Ontario Museum
100 Queen's Park, Toronto, Ontario