Midcentury couture is having a moment. With the upcoming release of the FX series “Feud: Capote vs. The Swans,” the polished elegance of postwar style icons like Babe Paley and C.Z. Guest is poised to become the next viral fashion trend.
It was the era of Raymond Loewy, who defined the look of the decade with his streamlined industrial designs. Christian Dior was watching.
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The creator of the New Look, which revolutionized fashion with its wasp-waisted, full-skirted silhouettes, incorporated the aerodynamic curves of ‘50s cars into designs like the La Cigale dress from his fall 1952 Profile line, which is now part of the permanent collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute.
According to the museum’s website, Harper’s Bazaar described it as built in “gray moiré, so heavy it looks like a pliant metal.” The design was the springboard for Maria Grazia Chiuri’s haute couture collection this season, but the challenge was how to make its singular material and cut relevant to a modern clientele.
“We want to emphasize this idea of Mr. Dior’s, but in a way that is more wearable, because at the time what he did is magnificent, but today it’s really uncomfortable,” the designer said in a preview. “It’s also a way to explore the heritage in a different way, that this heritage becomes something that can be present.”
Chiuri worked with a supplier near the silk capital of Lyon to produce a lighter version of the fabric, which she used for items ranging from jackets and coats to wide-legged pants and evening gowns.
She said it was her first time working with moiré, also known as watered silk, which is known for its wavy appearance and prized historically as a symbol of sovereignty.
There was a hint of a cardinal’s cape in an oxblood belted coatdress with an ostrich feather underskirt, while a black mini cape was paired with a tuxedo waistcoat and pants for a sleek masculine-feminine evening look.
Chiuri sculpted the exaggerated hipline of the Cigale dress into a ruby red bustier gown, but also tamed the unwieldy material into a sensual drape on the neckline of a trench-inspired dress. The collection was set off by artist Isabella Ducrot’s installation “Big Aura,” which featured oversize dresses designed to illustrate the power of clothes.
A frustrated architect, Christian Dior was a fan of clean lines, which he contrasted with delicate colors and ornate embroidery inspired by the 18th century. That sensibility could be felt in a beige coat with a trailing gold thread tapestry motif, and a graphic embroidered black tank top and matching ivory skirt.
There was plenty of rigor, too, with linear skirt suits in checked gray wool, and minimal evening dresses in inky black velvet. Chiuri pointed out how pleating was used to shape one of her signature white Grecian goddess gowns. “This can be done only in couture, and only on the body of the client,” she noted.
It’s the kind of painstaking technique that can be easily overlooked in the age of social media scrolling, which is why she was looking forward to seeing “The New Look,” the 10-part series from Apple TV+ due to hit screens on Feb. 14.
Among the guests at Monday’s show were cast members Ben Mendelsohn, who plays Christian Dior; Juliette Binoche, who stars as Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, and Glenn Close, who appears as Harper’s Bazaar editor in chief Carmel Snow.
It’s one of a rash of new designer biopics that is providing fresh insight into the roots of haute couture, which refers exclusively to made-to-measure outfits, as opposed to ready-to-wear.
“If we want to understand fashion, you have to understand the time when the brand was born,” Chiuri said. “The TV shows can help a bigger audience to understand this aspect.”
The moiré trend has an early adopter. Rihanna turned heads at the show in a shawl-collared black belted jacket and pencil skirt with a matching baseball cap: retro chic with a modern twist.
Launch Gallery: Christian Dior Couture Spring 2024
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