Historical Context for Galliano’s Dior Couture

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(From recent Galliano for Dior show)

Alice Wyllie’s article in The Scotsman indicates that Galliano’s Couture show flys in the face of the current economic position we all find ourselves in. His heavy reference of the extravagant Dior post-war ‘New Look’ makes one question the timing, in comparison to when Dior first presented the iconic silhouette and in relation to the economies then and now.

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(Harpers Bazaar, April 1947)

We are still in the midst of a heavy recession (dare I say, depresssion?) and Dior’s original ‘New Look’ came out after World War II had ended and fabric restrictions had been removed. Much was made over the relief this brought, and the fashion world were delighted with the new extravagant fashions by Dior. (More specifically, pleats were allowed again, and Dior used them to full effect (for additional information, see my article on the ‘new look’ Shirtwaist dress here). Some saw the ‘new look’ as a sign of future prosperity after a difficult war-time economy.

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(actress Ina Claire with Coco Chanel in 1931) (Marcelina Sowa in this years Galliano for Dior)

I think Galliano’s show for Dior this year is more comparable to what was going on cutlurally during the Great Depression. Then, as now, people needed to escape their money troubles. In the the late 1920s and early 1930s people turned to the glitz and glamour of the emergent Hollywood film industry for escapism. Galliano also strongly referenced depression era fashion in this years collection, and I think escapism was his intent.

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(From the recent Galliano for Dior show) (Clara Bow, the “it” girl from early Hollywood)

As I’ve previously mentioned on Wornthrough, today’s designers have different ideas on the best way to address the shrinking economy. Alexander McQueen’s in the Independent, recently noted “in times of recession, I think fashion is escapism.” Designer Narcisso Rodriquez, disagrees, noting in Time Magazine that “When times get tough, people want things that are real and lasting. What’s interesting as well, is that Vogue’s review of this years show noted “Still, this was Christian Dior very much under control and within the scope of reality.”

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Another designer offering escapism this year was Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel. His show this year hearkened back to the 1930s version of science fiction and space fashion, presenting unrealistic (and some unflattering) architectural silhouettes. Still, it’s fascinating to watch and entertaining to say the least.

Until Next Time,

Heather

www.fashionhistorian.net

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