An Insider’s View of Haute Couture - McCord Museum

New! Café Notman is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


In conjunction with the Christian Dior exhibition

© Laura Dumitriu – Musée McCord Museum

An Insider’s View of Haute Couture

Since September 25, the McCord Museum celebrates Christian Dior with its exhibition dedicated to this key figure from haute couture’s golden age. In addition to examples from most of the haute couture collections launched by Christian Dior, the Museum has in its possession three paper patterns from the house of Dior dating from the late 1950s—of the type supplied to licensees who purchased the rights to make reproductions.

The beauty and rarity of the sketches accompanying these patterns inspired an original project that makes this exhibition even more extraordinary! Indeed, the Museum has decided to give life to Bella, Dolores and Arthenice, the three evening dresses featured in these patterns, by having a Montreal fashion designer make them up in keeping with the haute couture tradition.

This obviously means respecting the cut and materials, but above all respecting the techniques specific to couture from the era. To help achieve this goal, some twenty Dior evening and cocktail dresses from the McCord Museum’s collection, some of which are presented in the Christian Dior exhibition, served as references for the architecture of the three dresses and the fabrics that best reflect the tradition of the French couture house.

This project is the perfect opportunity not only to bring to the forefront a highly specialized skill set, but also to show the ingenuity that shaped the golden age of haute couture.

  • <i>Arthénice</i>, Automne-hiver 1959 / Fall-Winter 1959, Maison Christian Dior © Musée McCord Museum
  • <i>Bella</i>, Automne-hiver 1959 / Fall-Winter 1959, Maison Christian Dior © Musée McCord Museum
  • <i>Dolores</i>, Autonme-hiver 1959 / Fall-Winter 1959, Maison Christian Dior © Musée McCord Museum
  • © Laura Dumitriu – Musée McCord Museum
  • © Laura Dumitriu – Musée McCord Museum
  • © Laura Dumitriu – Musée McCord Museum

The McCord Museum has selected Helmer Joseph, the Montreal designer best suited to take on the challenge of Dior evening dresses. His unique background has led him from Haiti where he learned traditional men’s tailoring to Lasalle College in Montreal, then to Paris where he first studied at the École de la Chambre Syndicale de la couture parisienne, the École de l’atelier de broderie Lesage and the École supérieure de la mode Esmod, before working for several major fashion houses such as Louis Vuitton, Chloé and Dior. Helmer Joseph possesses the talent, skill and versatility necessary to interpret the patterns and carry out all the stages of the couture process by himself, thanks to his extensive experience working for fashion houses belonging to the Chambre Syndicale de la couture parisienne.

For several weeks, the McCord Museum documented the work of this Montreal fashion designer to shed light on the complexity of technique as well as the ingenuity found in Dior’s haute couture. This is a unique invitation for all fashion lovers to travel back in time for an insider’s view of making haute couture in the fifties!

From the toile to the finished garment… See the dresses:
Dior, From Sketches to Dresses: Made by Helmer Joseph

This project is carried out in conjunction with the exhibition, Christian Dior, produced by the Royal Ontario Museum, and presented by Holt Renfrew Ogilvy.

Fabrics used to make these three dresses come from Couture Elle, who carries luxury fabrics of the high quality that this project requires.

The Museum would like to thank the École supérieure de mode | ESG UQAM for offering its collaboration.

Be an insider

Subscribe to our mailing list, and be the first to know about our exhibitions and activities.

Subscribe now

Free unlimited

Members benefit from unlimited free access to the exhibitions, activities, and many more privileges.

Become a Member now