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A review of NGV's Dior exhibition from someone who knows nothing about fashion

Five complimentary champagnes out of five. 

I'll be the first to admit I don't know much about fashion. Particularly haute-couture, clothing-as-art, capital 'F' Fashion. Perhaps it was the free cocktails on offer that buoyed my attention, but I was determined to see what all the fuss was about, and if I – a man whose favourite jacket was found inside a shed in country Victoria and still hasn't been washed since last Meredith – could 'get' this whole clothing in the gallery thing.  
 
As you enter the space, the first thing you'll notice is how well the NGV has been transformed. Carpet lines the floor, surrounded by crisp grey walls with French provincial design flourishes. The result? A self-contained world within a gallery where you're ensconced within the vision of designers, textiles, colour and movement. It's a nice space to be in, and it all feels very welcoming. So far, so good.
 
As an exhibition, The House of Dior tracks the illustrious fashion house's journey through the ages. As politics and societal expectations changed, so too do the designs. From sprawling ball gowns of the '40s to the introduction of European designs into Australia – it's fascinating to correlate the rapidly changing culture of the 20th and 21st century with alterations in design. Moreover, I was genuinely surprised at how engrossing that was to explore. Like all art, fashion is a conversation. It ebbs and flows, quite literally chopping and changing to reflect change around the time of its creation. Perhaps I was swept up in complimentary champagne, but the truth is I was genuinely intrigued by it all.
 
On to a more literal note. You've not seen greens, reds, and yellows like this. For me, it was the most exciting part of this exhibition. The materials used had a richness and depth to their colour that was just as enjoyable to bask in as any other painting that's hung in the NGV this year. It's not a particularly insightful thought, but it's the truth.
 
By the time my sister was pointing out Miranda Kerr's wedding dress, I was sold on this exhibition. I studied its intricate stitching and finely sewn hem. I asked my sister if she thought the veil was too much. I was invested in this now, and there was no turning back. It dawned on me – you don't need to understand fashion to appreciate it. Because great art can always be appreciated on a base, universal level. World class design and craftsmanship can be appreciated no matter the medium. That's what makes it world class.
 
All in all, give this exhibition a crack – even if you don't think it's for you. You might just surprise yourself. 
 
By Ravi O'Lee

The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture is showcasing now at NGV until Tuesday November 7. Book online here