So long, corsets – Dior delivers couture you want to play tennis in

The show has echoes of Maria Grazia Chiuri's first show in 2017, which drew inspiration from fencing kit
The show has echoes of Maria Grazia Chiuri's first show in 2017, which drew inspiration from fencing kit - Shutterstock

“Sport always ends up liberating women’s fashion.” So announced Dior’s womenswear creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, before presenting her show: a celebration of fluid, graceful, deconstructed clothes. Chiuri has a point. From golfing to Lycra, motocross jackets to neoprene, sporty designs have always ended up infiltrating the mainstream.

“I almost want to wear this to play tennis,” says one model backstage, of her ivory silk, crepe, wrap-maxi skirt. “It’s so light and comfortable. It feels very different from the clothes I’ve previously worn in couture shows.”

'I almost want to wear this to play tennis,' says one model of the show's flowy silhouettes
'I almost want to wear this to play tennis,' says one model of the show's flowy silhouettes - WWD
The label's latest show celebrated 'deconstructed' clothes
The label's latest show celebrates 'deconstructed' clothes - WWD

Couture was traditionally where wealthy women came to get the body of their dreams. Christian Dior in particular was a master chiseller. His 1947 Bar Jacket brought back the wasp waist after the masculine tailoring of the war years, thanks to boning and horse-hair padded peplums that accentuated the hips. “He was an architect,” says Chiuri. “He gave women a shape to fit into.”

Her job, as she sees it, is different. These days, women can shop for their ideal body from a surgeon. The designer’s brief is to give them clothes that reveal their shape to their best advantage. There’s no need to superimpose a carapace on top.

Models walk the catwalk in Chiuri's fluid designs
Models walk the catwalk in Chiuri's fluid designs - Shutterstock

The truth is that ever since she arrived at Dior seven years ago, Chiuri has been on a mission to create a luxurious fashion brand where comfort and show-stopping style aren’t mutually exclusive. Her first collection, in 2017, was partially inspired by fencing kit – quite a radical move for a house that was still shaped by the infamous and now-disgraced designer John Galliano, whose time there seemed to put a low priority on women’s movement.

By taking it apart and re-engineering it to be ultra light and unrestrictive, she’s made the Bar Jacket as desirable as Chanel’s cardigan-jacket. Versions of both these pillars of women’s tailoring can be found at every price point. (Coco Chanel was also inspired by sports kit – echoes of which can be seen in her tennis dresses and many jersey pieces. “Nothing is more beautiful than freedom of the body,” she said).

Models backstage in designs inspired by Chiuri's love of sports kit
Models backstage in designs inspired by Chiuri's love of sports kit - Getty

This collection, which focused mainly on evening wear, delivered elegance and freedom in abundance. Long loose gowns in black and ivory crepe were cut away to reveal crystal mesh vests. Others, in sparkling metallic jerseys or liquid satins and panne velvets, required no further embellishment. All were worn with flat sandals.

Many of the designs were metallic and glittery in colour
Many of the designs were metallic and glittery in colour - Shutterstock
The collection put a particular focus on evening wear
The collection put a particular focus on evening wear - WWD

There were plenty of Grecian drapes, but none of it too literal; nor did boning or corsets make an appearance. “I hate all that,” says Chiuri, somewhat boldly, given their historical relevance to Dior. She is never less than respectful to the archives, however. More than any other designer since Marc Bohan, she has managed to stay true to the spirit of the house while constantly updating it.

“There are other ways to sculpt the body,” she says. Jennifer Lopez, Venus Williams and Rosamund Pike were already wearing soft, drapey versions of Chiuri’s designs to the show, illustrating why, despite their heady prices, Dior continues to outsell most other luxury fashion offerings.

Celebrity guests including Rosamund Pike wore similarly relaxed outfits
Celebrity guests including Rosamund Pike wore similarly relaxed outfits - Getty
Tennis star Venus Williams was also in attendance
Tennis star Venus Williams was also in attendance - Getty

Unfortunately, freedom of movement ended at the show’s entrance. With a month to go before the Olympics open in Paris, many roads around the Place de la Concorde are closed to cars. Chuck in that beloved French sport, the demonstration, and you have the most sclerotic traffic this side of Istanbul. An excellent time to discover the joys of le walk.

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