Haute Couture. Just mentioning the words conjures up images of intense beauty, mind-blowing workmanship, and unbridled drama....ideally at least. Unfortunately these last few years the situation has been anything but ideal where Dior is concerned. Instead we've been treated to a string of collections singularly obsessed with the Dior archives. Don't misunderstand, there's nothing really wrong with scouring the archives for inspiration - that's essentially how fashion works - but how many times can the viewing public stand to have the significance of the f-ing New Look jammed down our throats? Seriously, one more season of a Bar suit reprise and I may snap. It's both numbing and painful at the same time. This season, besides finding inspiration in (read; rehashing) the New Look, Galliano found inspiration in backstage images of Christian Dior's cabine models while they were getting ready for a couture presentation, specifically in the state of undress captured in the images and the lingerie that the models were wearing. His desire, as it has been for quite some time now, was to show the inner workings of traditional haute couture. It's a nice notion, but it's not newsworthy in the least. Ever since his infamous Spring/Summer 2000 Hobo collection Galliano and his ateliers have worked to expose the inner secrets of couture clothing. Since that show nine years ago John has ripped clothes apart, exposed linings, boning and padding, turned things inside out and upside down, and rendered the clothes in complete transparency so that every stitch is visible, all with the goal of showing the work that goes into making a couture garment. So this season that means showing padded bar jackets in unsophisticated colors paired with black or flesh-toned garters, satin tap pants and stockings. As a look there was a little jolt to it that was a welcome respite from the stuffy faux elegance everyone has come to hate, but the truth is that this was just a styling trick. Honestly, there was no real undercurrent of eroticism or vulgarity to these looks. They were safe and unthreatening, a kind of sterile, PG-13 soft-core sensuality where any hint of something perverse or even truely sexual is hinted at only in passing. There isn't anything to really read into the looks, which probably accounts for why they're ultimately benign. And let's be real here, exposed undergaments are something that designers like Jean Paul Gaultier, Marc Jacobs, Miuccia Prada, Dolce and Gabbana, Tom Ford and Galliano himself, notably with his S/S RTW collection for Dior, have already done. Those are just the names off the top of my head, there are countless others who have done it at some point as well. I'm not saying that since it's been done a;ready that no one else can do it, but considering that the arena we're talking about right now is Haute Couture I expect more than just pairing a jacket with stockings. If that's all I wanted I could just buy Vogue Paris. Besides those looks, with jackets that ranged from hot pink, lime green, and yellow to zebra stripes and nude with a black dotted tulle overlay, there were tailleurs with jackets that had a garter built out of the jacket hem, transparent flaring skirts in tulle or pleated chiffon, draped dresses and tops covered with embroidery and a truly hideous deflated orange bubble skirt worn with a black bra and opera length gloves. Even though there wasn't anything remotely fresh going on with the clothes, a simple change of the colors would have made all the difference. If John would just ditch the dowager pastels and tacky brights the clothes would probably feel much less dated than they do...though the drag queen makeup, Irving Penn poses and silly hats that always accompany these collections don't exactly help either.
There were, of course, a number of dresses. A blush and black dotted tulle cocktail sheath looked like the A.B.S. version of the stunning nude and black embroidered transparent dresses John showed back in 2005, while a cherry red organza dress with a frothy top half covered in embroidery was sheer enough to show the stockings underneath. The stockings were nice. The dress...not so much. There was a hot pink pouf skirted dress, the top half of which was a beige bustier, some knee length numbers in some very off shapes that weren't quite draped but weren't truly structured either, and finally a selection of debutante-ready gowns. One look in draped white chiffon had a panel of leopard print down the front that was, to put it plainly, tacky as all hell. Another was a lumpen mass of embroidered pink faille with a skirt that was split open in the front to reveal the garters underneath. A pale lemon tulle skirt was scattered with crystals and worn with a nude colored bra. I get the point of that look, but it's execution is kind of tactless, no? It just looks awkward, and kind of immature as well. The rest were in a similar vein, pairing a corseted top with a full skirt in tulle, lace or one in faille draped in swags and seemingly suspended from the garters attatched to the corseted top.
This was yet another season of territory that has been covered by Galliano before with much better results. I'm truly tired of this obsession that Dior is having with a world that doesn't exist anymore. The days of the salon and the cabine, of gloved hands and outfits that are always finished off with a hat are long dead. I could say it's time to move on, but given that Galliano didn't start his career at Dior obsessing over these things it would seem odd to say that. What he needs is to let go and stop giving the suits what they think Dior needs. There's nothing wrong with looking at the past, but you need to run the inspiration through a sieve so that all that's left is what's essential, and if a businessman is telling you otherwise then any designer worth their praise should know better than to listen. I'd be repeating myself at this point if I expressed how utterly frustrating it is to see this creative rut play out, so I can't even think of anything else to say. The whole formula is stale, and the only thing to do with something stale is to toss it. I just hope that John and/or the Dior execs realize that sooner rather than later.