Transforming Dior Into a House of Blues


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Christian Dior once called navy blue the only color that can “compete with black.”

Credit
Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times

PARIS — The good news: This time, there were no fencing outfits. The bad news: They have been replaced by a meditation on the uniform, in its various guises, from schoolgirl to WAC to policewoman. In her second ready-to-wear collection for Christian Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri took her feminism further out of the realm of the literal — but not quite far enough.

Ms. Chiuri was inspired, she said, by a quotation from M. Dior in “The Little Dictionary of Fashion” that reads: “Among all the colors, navy blue is the only one which can ever compete with black. It has all the same qualities.” That made her think about the way that blue — military and otherwise — can erase all gender lines; and then about the unisex “uniform of the street,” which is to say, bluejeans; and then about the way children are separated by color, so boys wear blue, and how that doesn’t make any sense. So she reclaimed the shade.

She did it by taking work wear tropes (shirtwaists and cargo pants and hoodies) and remaking them in taffeta, the fabric of formality. That was clever. She did it with angora knits and cloudlike skirts and elegantly understated jersey tailoring, along with her familiar starry, starry sky embroidered fairy tale gowns. They were pretty.

But she also did it with faded denim coveralls stenciled with sign language gestures, dark denim boyfriend jeans and sheer point d’esprit and tulle corseted debutante dresses revealing big pants with a “Christian Dior” elastic band at the waist, many paired with leather berets and mirrored glasses that smacked of role play. And that fell flat.

Since arriving at Dior, Ms. Chiuri has been trying to give the brand known for the Bar and the New Look a genuinely modern identity by injecting a dose of rock ’n’ roll hardware into the mix. On her mood board, displayed in a preview, were pictures of a navy Dior gown from 1947 and Nina Simone’s “Little Girl Blue” album.

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Dior, fall 2017.

Credit
Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times

It’s a commendable (and necessary) strategy. As is the idea of proposing a personal, as opposed to professional, uniform, which would make every woman’s life easier. Ms. Chiuri herself, most often found in a white shirt and jeans, is a case in point. The problem is, the two worlds haven’t meshed yet, and their tension is not resolved. She gets trapped between her theme and an haute place.

As a result, in the game of free association that occurs once the last look had left the runway, the reference that came to mind was not “Rhapsody in Blue.” It was the Moody Blues.

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