WATCHING the Dior SS23 Haute Couture show is like taking a step back into early-to-mid-20th century Paris. Not because of the abundance of Bar jackets, slinky flapper-girl dresses and draped, tucked shoulder dresses, but also the collection’s focal muse, the incomparable Josephine Baker.
Maria Grazia Chiuri looked towards Baker as a key point of influence, but in a way that is different to what we are perhaps used to seeing. We are not presented with a line of banana skirts and leopard print garments (though admittedly, they are references too iconic to ever grow bored of) but instead a collection which seems to encapsulate an essence Baker’s extraordinary life: glamour, activism and beauty.
The show acts as a window to the Paris of yesteryear, marrying one of the French capital’s most famous stars with some of the timeless creations from Monsiuer Dior that have filtered through to today.
Contrasting silhouettes are a key element. As with most Dior collections, a nipped in waist and fuller skirt is hidden amongst other looks, but this time in contrast to an abundance 20s style garments, creating more of a boy-ish silhouette the flapper girls were particularly fond of. Is this Dior’s way of pre-empting a roaring 20s part two?
The looks are given an ultra-luxe finish with beaded fringe, silk brocades and expert embroidery, heightening the collection from ready-to-wear to haute couture. There is also a balance between suiting and outerwear with more intimate garments fit for the boudoir, with silk ruched body suits, velvet smoking jackets and sequin robes. It is not hard to imagine Baker in garments such as these in her dressing room, or after a late night performance at the Carnegie Hall.
Grazia characterises the show with a series of portraits of Baker that decorate the walls of the venue, prompting a visual dialogue which doesn’t quite tell the story of her life, but hopes to encapsulate an essence of the incredible woman she was, and the legacy she has left behind.
by Ben Sanderson