At Dior’s haute couture, the models’ hemlines dipped through the decades: a swirl of a skirt from the Fifties; short, bright and striped from the Sixties.
And those tasteless Seventies? There were catsuits, shimmering in silver or multi-coloured jacquard, competing for attention with shoes where chunky transparent heels gave some height.
Raf Simons’s couture for Christian Dior was a conundrum — the handwork so beautiful that you wondered which fairy fingers could have pressed flowers into a translucent plastic coat; or embroidered tiny sequins on guipure lace.
As the models walked down the scaffolding ramp set, you could tell that each stripe, each decoration — even the double rings that tied the ponytails – were works of art. Front row guests such as Natalie Portman with Benjamin Millepied gazed in wonder at each vertiginous descent.
The show could be called retro, and David Bowie’s voice from across the decades rang through the room. Yet there was still a streamlined, modern feel, even to full skirts, when teamed with a racy sporty top.
“Last time we went right back into the past, and I thought it would be interesting to imagine three decades together: the romance of the Fifties, the courage of the Sixties and the liberty of the Seventies,” said Raf backstage. He was referring to last season’s haute couture, which had taken themes from the eighteenth-century through to the moon landing.
Like any journey, there were dynamic, speedy passages, others less sure-footed — and some trip-ups. Perhaps the scaffolding set was significant, suggesting a work in progress.
I do not think of Raf as a romantic or a decorator — rather, as an architect. Yet the puffed-up skirts were sweetly beautiful. They looked good, too, as part of an extended circle, the skirt cut in pleated hoops in vivid shades of grass green, orange, yellow, red and a line of navy.
Cutting the sweetness with popping colours modernised the effect, not least with acid-bright vinyl boots.
The short skirts seemed more of a problem, although a tailored lemon-yellow coat was cute. Even when the same striped pleats were used, the thigh-high boots, as if from the set of 1968 movie Barbarella, made me doubt Dior’s journey into space.
While I don’t think that Raf Simons quite hit the target, there is a sense of energy at the house. Monsieur Dior would have said it with flowers in the most conventional way. The current designer has a more radical point of view.
And although I did not have a chance to go to the studio, I would imagine that the “petite mains”, or, seamstresses, would be invigorated by doing new things with embroidery and paillettes.
And the catsuits? So-called onesies are currently all the fashion rage — so why not a twenty-first-century haute couture version?