Christian Dior, Haute Couture, AW14, Paris.
For the Christian Dior couture collection for Autumn-Winter 2014, the first section of the show was devoted to Raf Simons’ experiments with silhouette. More specifically the silhouettes seemed to reference the dress shapes of the 18th century, but in terms of technique the Dior dresses used more contemporary combinations of panels, tucks and pleats to create the necessary shaping and fullness in the fabric.
Whereas 18th century silhouettes often seemed to hinge directly from the waist, with fabric fullness draped over a pannier, the Dior silhouettes were given a newer slant by the way that each dress played with the position and slant of the “waist” seam of the dress. For example, the horizontal waist seams often do not fall directly on the natural curve of the waist but instead sit low on the hips, slant or curve forwards, or are broken into staggered panel lines.
The placement and angle of the garment waist and hip proportions then forms the motivation for the placement of all of the panel lines, tucks and pleats that morph the fabric from the narrow waist area out to the full hips. The shaping of the outer shell fabric then must be supported by internal structures in the form of corsets and full skirts, or even a modern form of pannier to give the garment the structure.
The fact that the fullness of the dresses has been dropped to swing low around the hips of the wearer is part of the way that Simons has used the historical reference in a more modern way. Effectively, the silhouettes have been made more slouchy, just in a very 18th century way.
Fashion students can often struggle to find the right balance when trying to design garments with contemporary uses of historical references. The result being that many end up with garments that just look too “costume”.
There are a couple of points about these particular garments that could help students to find solutions in their own work. The first is that the historical reference point for these dresses has been the waist silhouette and to a much lighter degree, the floral fabrics and embellishments that have been chosen. Consider that if Simons had also decided to borrow from the necklines, cuffs and sleeves of that same era then the garments may instantly have looked like a costume. Historical references can always be experimented with sparingly, and edited away from all of the other parts of the garment, and in this case that meant that the dresses were often shown as sleeveless dresses with simple necklines.
These dresses also work well for this collection because of the more contemporary use of embellishments that have been applied in quite sporadic flourishes that make the beading and embroidery seem more spontaneous and less laboured.
Finally, these pieces work well because they are just one section of a collection that includes garments that reference silhouettes and details from other eras, so the historical reference does not become overstated and is instead seen in the context of a broader question about how silhouettes and details are reused and referenced throughout time.
Images from Vogue.co.uk»