Dior Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2019

by Long Nguyen

A group of young women of different sizes and heights stepped out onto the light green and yellow wooden platform. Inside a mustard-colored canvas tent, decorated with stringed transparent light bulbs that hung like waves across the wooden support anchors, incandescent, the women performed acrobatics, their bodies crawled over each other and amassed themselves into a living, breathing pyramid. They were members of the Mimbre company, a London based group that gave a stellar opening to the Dior haute couture show. Maria Grazia Chuiri showed her highly anticipated spring couture line inspired by a photograph and a TV headline. It was a famous Richard Avedon photograph from then model Dovima at Cirque d’hiver in August 1955. Dovima was the first in her field to go only by a first name: a triptych of her actual name, Dorothy Virginia Margaret. In the black and white photograph, her hands are spread out, laid softly on two elephants by her sides. She wore a long black Christian Dior dress, a large silk sash wrapped around her waist. The photograph by Harper’s Bazaar, now known as “Dovima with Elephants.” Chuiri was also inspired by coverage of the show at the Savoy Hotel in London ‘Dior  “Circus” comes to Town’ in 1950.

In Grazia Chuiri’s mind, the circus inspiration was less about any actual company than a metaphorical locale in the early twentieth century, when artists like Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Léonide Massine, Erik Satie, and Sergei Diaghilev contributed to staging at Cirque Medrano. A time when, creative, off-the-wall, and diverse genres clashed together, similar to what is seen in fashion today.  In terms of cohesion, the circus theme provided the crucial momentum for consistency. A mere flawless execution of clothes and ambience that allowed Grazia Chuiri to explore deeply, to stretch the atelier’s hand to its limits. It resulted in her best haute couture outing to date since arriving at the Dior house in 2016. A show where clothes and inspiration coalesced seamlessly in shades of pale pastels, combinations of black and white.  

The figurative tattoo skins of women in Victorian circus became the base for subtle crinoline dresses with alternating fabrics in pale pink and blue, star pattern embroidered on v-neck dress worn with white, medieval English, high collared blouses. Black and white tattoo pattern bodysuit underneath a tulle embroidered geometric motifs pleated dress.  The work of the flou atelier shone brilliantly with gold lame, knotted and pleated dresses. But it was a tulle skirt with an inset of multicolor silk, jacquard bands frayed at the edges, that really caught my eye. It was worn with a puff sleeved knit tulle sweater, a soft light green and orange harlequin pattern pleated on an organza evening dress gave a touch of warmth with a white sun ray pleated collar bolero. It was one of the show’s strongest looks. Overall, there was less emphasis on ornamentation, the clothes felt lighter. And where decorations were required, they were not overdone, but rather applied with restraint, in a light sparkle on a short Bar shape dress with puffed sleeves and undulated pattern of beads.

Not to be outdone, the tailleur atelier was magical with its sharp tailormanship on a burgundy ottoman and satin trouser suit with frogging, a black strapless wool and silk jumpsuit with an ivory organza shirt, or a slim fitted black wool tailcoat trouser suit.  The jacket of the suit, one with fringed trims on sleeves and legs, had a hint of the original Bar silhouette, but not the exaggerated shape, giving the models a whiff of effortlessness and comfort. The Definite Bar jacket came out as a white embroidered organza jacket worn with a short silver rhinestone jumpsuit, a look that was more 2019 than 1947. In a nod to the more laissez faire attitude of millennials, there was a simple silk long sleeve tunic and matching shorts with lightly threaded embroideries in gold and orange.

Grazia Chuiri has singularly brought a voice of activism – her “We Should All be Feminist” slogan for women’s liberation t-shirts and the Paris May 1968 shows had jolted the luxury sector of fashion to be more involved in societal issues. It affected haute couture in subtle ways. The image of the clown as a figure transcendent gender lines, the circus was seen as a place of inclusion. Until this day, the circus represents an idealized image of modern society “where beauty, origin, gender, and age are no longer important, and only technique and daring matter.”

Photos courtesy of Dior/ Estelle Hanania