The stakes may be lower than they were in 1947 when Christian Dior created a ruckus with his New Look. But 70 years on, hem lengths remain a talking point. Dior lowered them to the shin. Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior’s creative director, sliced them to the mid-thigh.
Milan’s catwalks were filled with mini-skirts last week. This may cause consternation among Dior’s clients, who gathered to watch the Dior show in a vast marquee in the Tuileries Gardens in central Paris. Most wore the cinched waist Bar Jacket and full-net skirts that have become a Dior trademark under Chiuri’s watch.
“Dior always did many different kinds of jackets, and the time felt right to explore other aspects of the archives,” she explained backstage before the show. One of her launch pads for the new collection were the silhouettes Marc Bohan designed for the house in the early 1960s
A favourite of Liz Taylor and Princess Grace, Bohan, who successfully presided over Dior for three decades, is an under-appreciated figure. Perhaps he was too modest and too normal. “But he was quite revolutionary,” says Chiuri, who has experienced similarly dismissive assessments in some quarters. “He worked for Dior in London. He understood the youthquake and sports clothes. He introduced ready to wear to Dior [before that it was strictly an haute couture house] and he launched The Slim Fit.”
Adieu then, full skirts. Instead, abbreviated skirts and shorts, cropped, squared-off jackets that looked as though they were made of glossy, high maintenance silk satins but were expensive mash ups of neoprene and nylon. Christian Dior considered knees the ugliest part of a woman’s body which should be hidden. He would have had a hard time creatively if he’d lived into the 60s.
And this was very 60s. Low block heeled boots laced to the knee, patent Mary Janes, a-line chiffon evening dresses with Jackie Kennedy bows and sequinned skirts with matching camis, inspired, Chiuri said, by pictures of revellers at Rome’s legendary Piper nightclub, meant this was very Queen’s Gambit, but with a Dior budget.
Easy to wear? That depends whether you feel certain shapes and silhouettes demand a thin frame – an increasingly old fashioned view. Current fashion orthodoxy maintains you can wear what you like – although many designers during this fashion month continue to show on thin, young models.
Still, it was glorious to watch – an optimistic explosion of electrifying colours with energising jolts of sportiness, including shiny looking boxer sets, conventional Mary Janes featuring trainer technology and weightless nylon coats with a trompe l’œil embossed effect that replicated the quilted cannage technique of Dior’s famous Lady Dior bag.
32-year-old Ramla Ali, the Somali born British Olympic boxer, who appears on the September cover of British Elle in Dior, had been an inspiration, said Chiuri. “Sport,” she added, “has been a powerful tool for liberating women through history as well as raising fashion’s comfort levels.”
Designers of luxury fashion rarely talked about comfort until recently. Few now can afford not to.Internet Explorer Channel Network