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Parisian couture at the National Gallery of Victoria

Parisian couture at the National Gallery of Victoria

VOGUE describes haute couture as live art exhibitions so it is only fitting that the $1.4 million well sought-after collection is to be displayed at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV).  Chanel, Dior and Yves Saint Laurent are some of the designers included in the collection.


Sprawling across 200 years, the garments and rare designer workbooks were curated by Dominque Sirop. Spending decades cultivating the collection, Sirop’s first piece was a 1945 wool dress by Paquin, bought with money borrowed from his grandmother. Other articles were purchased from auctions and specialists from the reigning high fashion cities like France, London and parts of the US. Sirop worked under Yves Saint Laurent and Hubert Givenchy, while creating his own couture house. The one of a kind collection was donated to the NGV by Krystyna Campbell-Petty, in memory of her late husband. Campbell-Pretty describes her husband, Harold Campbell-Pretty as an art and fashion enthusiast. “In his memory, (this collection) is an outstanding opportunity to recognise both of these passions in honouring a most elegant man, a true gentleman. It would have pleased him greatly to know that such an important collection and archive are now with us in Melbourne, to be shared with the community. It is very satisfying to think that the exquisite beauty of these pieces can now be enjoyed by so many others.”


Other than an archive of crème de la crème fashion, the collection stands as a rich record of society, culture and the role of women throughout history, something I can’t wait to see and experience for myself. Perhaps haute couture seems excessive and meaningless to some, but to me these pieces represent more than the unbridled passion and creative workmanship of designers. Rather, these pieces are of the moment and completely contextual, serving as tangible representations of the societal values and events of the era. In the 1920’s, Gabrielle Chanel introduced the little black dress in the 1920’s, an iconic moment that conceptualised the individuality and the modern woman. Still a fashion staple today, mine have prime position in my wardrobe (I’ll admit I’m always buying more, but they’re worth it!) Christian Dior’s post-war pieces were feminine and sculpted, doing away with war time sensibilities and harsh silhouettes. Dior’s collection celebrated the end of World War II and heralded in an exciting new era.

ngv-fashion-collection-03 Sirop notes the historical significance of his collection. “This collection provides an important heritage for younger generations and I wanted to pass on this history to them.” Also included in the collection are twelve pieces by Gabrielle Chanel (including an original gown from early in her career), dresses from Christian Dior’s first collection, rare workbooks of Madame Grès and Jeanne Lanvin, as well as photography from Balenciaga, a personal favourite designer of mine. The collection will be exhibited to the public in early 2018.

Author: Alana Mulderry

Images: courtesy of the NGV