This season Maria Grazia Chiuri brings up her country of birth again, and reconnects with an Italian woman in history for Dior
It has been a while since Dior had dancers get in the way of the models’ display of Maria Grazia Chiuri’s fussy, re-imagined Dior. The last was shown two years ago, during the Resort 2021 collection, staged in Puglia, Italy, where ten local dancers performed as a throbbing mass while the models walked on as if they were no obstacle. This time, Dior engaged a Dutch dance troupe formed by the siblings Imre and Marne van Opstal, dubbed “the hottest new dance choreographers in Netherlands”. The dancers, in nude-coloured costumes of tank tops painted with torsos, paired with plain underpants, executed a primal, writhing routine that could be seen as carnal. In the latest issue of Purple, the sister Imre van Opstal told the magazine, “We like to speak about the human body”. So does Ms Chiuri, who, through her love of sheerness, communicates her idea of body image, however the ideal body is framed for her culturally.
This season, with her woman-for-woman Dior, Ms Chiuri looks at the reputedly diabolical Renaissance proto-feminist Catherine (also Caterina) de’ Médici (of the powerful Florentine banking family). Like her, Catherine de’ Médici is an Italian transplanted to France, only in the latter’s case, by marriage—to King Henry II, a union few in court were thrilled with as the Médicis were of merchant class, not royalty. As Queen of France, she—not known for her beauty (she has been described as “homely”)—was patron of the arts and a fashion consumer, who, being “plump”, made corsets quite the fashion, as well as heels to make her look taller. When she left for France at age 14, she reportedly brought along a large retinue, including dressmakers, jewellers, and perfumers. While she was the embodiment of the dress politics of the time, it is arguable if she was a major contributor to French fashion the way Marie Antoinette later was (or her husband’s mistress Diane de Poitiers), unless the scented gloves she introduced in court is counted. The Sovereign was better known as a manipulative, even vicious regent (her three sons were consecutive rulers), who was hated by the Protestants for her supposed role in France’s religious civil wars of that era, in which many were assassinated. She was, to put it mildly, the political force behind the reigns of her sons. When she died in 1589, France mourned her with the same outpouring for a slaughtered hen.
It is understandable why Catherine de’ Médici would appeal to another Italian woman who designs for a company named after a Frenchman. According to the show notes, “women know how to explore magical territories since they have a privileged connection with nature and its vital force”. Thus blessed, Ms Chiuri establishes the link to the past, but however modern her attempts, the results bordered on the costume-y made current by today’s midriff-baring must. The corset is brought back, but not with the constriction of those that tightened Catherine de’ Médici’s waist. Ms Chiuri made them loose so that you can wear them like you would a singlet (oh, that, too, appears) with the shape of a stomacher curve at the bottom end (and what’s more modern than wearing them with elasticised-waist pants?), giving you the chance to boast a flair for sartorial historicism. And perhaps find kinship with the unconventional sisters of the past?
And then there are the mini hooped skirts (we already hear many say cute) in the shape of table food covers, showing off how exquisite Dior is with lace, also a Catherine de’ Médici fave. Clearly Ms Chiuri does not reference the past the way her predecessor John Galliano did. It appears that she went to the cutting table without humour or a vestige of wit. Still, rather funny are those flimsy skirts with hooped uppers that made them look like lanterns, or bird cage covers, or worse, mosquito netting over a baby’s cot. Pretty skirts means there are dirndl versions (in floral patchwork!), cheerleader skirts with smocking across the stomach, and those to be worn over shorts like capes for bottoms. To enhance the overall femininity, there are lacings for sides of bodices as well as neckline, or down the length of skirts; lace borders as seen on négligée: gathered trims like those on the edges of French maids’ aprons: and more open-work fabrics to delight your dry-cleaner. Oh, there’s also that much lauded print of the map of Paris., so you’ll know Maria Grazia Chiuri is putting Paris on the map.