25 January 2010

Couture Fashion Week: Christian Dior's ode to girlishness

Things have come to a pretty pass when a gal with several hundred couture shows under her (Hermes) belt has to watch Dior through the glue stiffened hat bow of a blue rinsed thirteen year old blogger, Tavi.

Don’t get me wrong. I find young people fascinating. I have children myself. And I have even brought them to a couture show or two. But they sat where they belonged: on the floor!

So the Dior show played out rather surreally through Tavi’s tifter. The credit crunch may have taken this couture show back to the maison, but the models who tiptoed their way through seven salons and down the grand winding staircase of the 19th century Dior headquarters were hardly slumming it. I reckoned John Galliano’s favourite set designer, Michael Howells, had used at least 4,000 apricot and lemon roses to feminise the dove grey painted rooms.

It was an ode to girlishness; a hymn to her favourite things. The silhouette was all riding habit chic and dressage demeanour with ramrod straight backs, swagged skirts and glossy top hats over huge chignons encased in black net.

The models may have looked like cartoon Charles James heroines on the hunt for a stable-boy, but the riding habit was actually a key inspiration for Christian Dior’s famous ‘Bar’ jacket and many of the elements of his iconic New Look. The tiny jackets and huge skirts are therefore as close as can be got to classic Dior. Whether they are 21st Century Dior is open to debate. But they made a very fine show.

The tailoring softened into embroidered tulle jackets with nipped in waists and curvaceous peplums over layered lace skirts. At this point the top hats became huge pin wheels with a tumble of tulle over the face curtesy of Mr Stephen Jones. The make up was pantomime camp with eyebrows arching into the hairlines and lips a perfect cupids bow.

The finale was a came in a riot of heavy silk satin gowns. There was barely room for two heavily draped and swagged skirts to pass in one room. Colours were edible raspberry and cassis, or lavender and chocolate, or rose and claret.

The word around the room among those in the know, is that as late as Sunday lunchtime these dreamy gowns were mere bolts of embroidered cloth. No wonder the Dior staffers propped against pillars looked distinctly hollow eyed.

With hats off for evening gowns the models’ hair was piled into a birds nest confection that made them look impeccably distressed while Alicia Keys belted out Love Is My Disease and Sade closed with Soldier Of Love.

John Galliano took his final bow in a suit that was somewhere between Beau Brummel and Master of the Hounds. It was only Monday and it was all too too much.

- Paula Reed in Paris


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