Dior F/W2017 Haute Couture Collection

July 31, 2017 8:00 AM

It's impossible to overestimate the impact of Christian Dior's first collection when it was shown in Paris in 1947. The global community had just emerged from the devastation of war, and it was a time of rebuilding and rapid economic growth. Women who had entered the workplace to fulfill manufacturing jobs in support of the war effort were longing for glamour and a return to their traditional feminine roles. Dior's new look was the answer. His iconic silhouette– cinched waists, voluminous hips swathed in taffeta, and sharply accented busts– was nothing short of revolutionary.

Seventy years later, Dior's Artistic Director, Maria Grazia Chiuri found herself in the unenviable position of designing the label's Autumn/Winter 2017-2018 haute couture collection. It's like a contemporary pop singer recording a song by Marvin Gaye or Frank Sinatra. One must pay homage to the legacy, yet venture far enough from the prototype to suggest innovation, lest she be accused of mere imitation. Like I said, it's an unenviable task. But if anyone is up for the challenge of steering the most storied fashion house of the 20th Century into a bold new future in the 21st, then surely it is Chiuri.

Born and educated in Rome, Chiuri spent twenty years as a designer at Valentino before her appointment at Dior last summer, the first female Artistic Director in the company's history. Like Monsieur Dior himself, Chiuri's skills as a couturier are unimpeachable: the meticulous body-skimming tailoring, the selection of fabrics that float with the body, the lush details which add sophistication but never detract from the silhouette.

These attributes were present in all 66 of the looks that Chiuri presented in the gardens of Les Arts Decoratifs in Paris on July 4th, and many of her garments were explicitly inspired by original designs by Christian Dior. The strapless evening dresses are particular standouts. An ankle-length ball gown with a tulip bust in deep grey silk would boost a red carpet ingenue into full-fledged global stardom. A lace embroidered evening dress in shades of grey with a scalloped hem screams Hampton's garden party. A silk evening dress with a sheer herringbone design, translucent bust and zig-zag hem is edgy yet sophisticated, in a Rihanna at the Grammies sort of way. A fringy embroidered cocktail dress with a deep v-neck and sheer skirt would be a stunning red carpet look for Jennifer Lopez. Yes, I know, a burlap sack would be stunning on Jennifer Lopez, lest we digress. Similarly, this fringe number would be a show-stopper on anyone lithe and daring enough to wear it.

Like Mr. Dior, Ms. Chiuri has a particular fascination with jacketed suits. But in contrast to Monsieur's calf-bearing designs, Chiuri's collection features mostly ankle-length garments. Paired with her penchant for wool and a palette along the grey spectrum, Chiuri's designs sometimes venture from Dior's celebration of life and fertility, and almost suggest a wartime rations sensibility, as if the garments were made from surplus army blankets.

For women of the world who celebrate life at fabulous galas and red carpet events, there will be no shortage of divine options from Chiuri's couture collection for Dior this season. And let those of us who critique Chiuri's aesthetic and compare her to Monsieur Dior be damned. For Dior was a man with a vision to create clothes that every woman in the world would want to wear, and seventy years later, the fashion house he built remains one of the most storied on the planet. And while the book of Dior has many chapters by various authors, Chiuri has earned her place among them. Her collection was indeed appropriately innovative while paying respect to the legacy, an unenviable task which Chiuri has approached with courage and grace. Monsieur Dior would surely approve.

 

 

WRITTEN BY KAREN FRAGALA-SMITH

EDITED BY HOLLIS DE LANEY

 

PHOTO CREDIT: DIOR

 

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