Leah Van Loon: Dressing Dior (without Dior)


Update: Join Leah for an intimate and insightful haute couture talk and Dior tour on the evening of March 21st at Glenbow. Click here for more information and tickets.

So, you’re going to a party, but not just any party: the hosts have suggested evoking the spirit of Christian Dior, but chances are you don’t just have a Dior gown kicking around in the back of your closet. What to do? We spoke to Calgary-based fashion stylist Leah Van Loon at length about all things Dior, including some helpful tips on how to pay homage to the famed designer without taking out a second mortgage.

Van Loon certainly knows what she’s talking about. Having worked in fashion since 1994 – styling for the stage and screen, the pages of your favourite local magazines and one-on-one with her clients – she realized a personal and professional bucket list ambition in 2016 when she attended the Journée Particulière, a behind the scenes tour of the House of Dior’s flagship store in Paris (still at the same address since Dior himself established the label there in 1946).

Leah Van Loon in Paris. Join her on March 21st at Glenbow for a haute couture talk and Dior tour. Details to come at

“It was amazing to see it in real life,” says Van Loon. “They actually have the craftspeople there doing the work, so somebody was doing the embroidery, somebody was pleating, somebody was doing menswear tailoring… anything you could think of for couture, they were showing us how it was done.”

Beyond the impeccable construction of the garments, Van Loon says her appreciation of Dior extends to the fabled design house’s place in fashion history, beginning with its post-war revival of glamour and elegance.

“He revolutionized a lot of things. Previous to him things were pretty dreary. It’s not like he was responsible for the end of the war, but he took advantage of the fact that people were hungry for something beautiful.  I know for myself, I’ve always hungered for the same beauty and I want to see as much of that in my day to day life as much as I can manage.”

Don’t we all? A large part of what caused such a sensation when Dior presented his debut collection in 1947 has been attributed to full skirts and wasp waists of the “New Look.” While Van Loon says the style is her personal favourite, you do have other options in planning your Dior-inspired outfit. After all, the “New Look” means committing to a fair bit of fabric.

Fit and flare: Caracas, 1957
(Copyright Royal Ontario Museum)

“The New Look is very a specific silhouette – fit and flare, we call it. It’s fitted at the waist and flares out over the hips. It’s an hour-glass figure eight. I love it personally, that’s my silhouette; I invest in fit and flare whenever I can,” she explains. “It’s still a modern silhouette. You might not be wearing it with a crinoline, obviously, but I definitely like to take up my personal space.  But [Dior] had a lot of silhouettes, even in that first collection.

Another good place to start? Dig out those floral prints — it was a central theme in the designer’s aesthetic.

[Dior’s] whole thing was dressing women like flowers – he thought the most beautiful thing after women were flowers. He was obsessed with flowers, he had beautiful gardens at his country estate… it was really his inspiration.”

To make things really easy, Van Loon offers the following three-point plan to refer to in putting together your outfit:

Shape: Dior favoured either an hourglass or a pencil skirt shape but he also popularized the tulip skirt. This is easily modernized with a softer a-line or fit and flare silhouette.

Print: Famous for his love of flowers, Dior often embroidered tiny lily-of-the-valley or cherry blossoms on his couture pieces. Floral prints are a wonderful way to honour the designer’s affinity for nature.

Attention to detail: Christian Dior was a master of creating a total look and was the first to develop a business that provided for his clients from head to toe. A finished, detailed look brings that impeccable Dior inspiration to your ensemble.

Really, though, whether you’re inclined towards dressing to the nines or just slipping on a Canadian tuxedo, we’d love to see you all at our February 9th Launch Party. Admission is by donation and all are welcome. We’ll have plenty of extra glamour to share with the opening of Christian Dior and several other fantastic exhibitions. More information on the complete season line-up here.Leah Van Loon will be hosting a Salon Series haute couture talk and Christian Dior tour at Glenbow on March 21 at 7pm. Tickets go on sale January 28. Call 403 268 4110 for more information.

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