12 April 2015

Feminism, Fashion and the Future: Dior SS15 Haute Couture Show Review

Figure 1: Dior Spring/Summer 2015 Collection, designed by Raf Simons and shown at Paris Fashion week.

Figure 2: Dior 1954 ‘New Look’ Dress. The ‘New Look’ dress put Dior on the map, after having been founded in 1947.

Figure 3: Photograph of ‘New Look’ suit
 Designed by Christian Dior
 Photographed by John French
London, England
V&A John French archive

Dior’s Spring/Summer 2015 collection stood out from the rest. In comparison to the splatter of metal and floral feminism that made up the Chanel show, or the musical, glittery and colourful extravaganza that was Jean Paul Gaultiers last Ready-To-Wear show; Dior’s collection brought a touch of taste, minimalism and serenity to the otherwise chaotic Paris fashion week.

Raf Simons was inspired by three themes. Both traditional men and women’s dress from the Belle Époque, the idea of the future, and the notion of the ‘Modern’ woman and what that meant. I believe Raf Simons achieved all three; his collection embodies a fresh take on 18th century royal French attire; with traditional details such as dark thick calf leather, richly dyed silk jacquards, and swaggering bishop sleeves- yet with the twist of being free and unrestrictive. This is where the futuristic aspect weaves in; in the past when designers revisit 18th century, the soft and feminine silhouettes they create, in reality, are anything but.

Raf Simons believes the definition of a modern woman is a woman that’s free; which chimes in beautifully with the chorus of feminism seen at Paris Fashion week. An example of Raf’s Vision of a free Modern woman is Emma Watson. Because of her, Dior’s cheer for feminism was not only seen on the runways, but also in the U.N. At the launch of her HeForShe campaign, as if on cue, wore Dior.

But has Dior always been an advocate? Of course, Christian Dior and the brand have always been devoted women’s strive for beauty and glamour, but have they always been devoted to women’s strive for rights?

Women spent the duration of WW2 adapting to more powerful professions, left behind by their husbands, fathers, and brothers. In 1945, when the war was over, and the men were back, women were sent back to mother and cook. This is reflected in the spring 1947 New Look (see Figure 2, 3). With masculinity, came power; Dior’s New Look brought about a feminine silhouette that came at the cost of a corset. With no masculine silhouette, no more masculine rights- this meant a drain of power for women.

Dior has evolved; and the 2015 Collection just shows how far they have come. A similar silhouette to the New Look can be seen, however the crucial difference is that this female silhouette is no longer restricted: she is free.

Even the details scream a free woman, no longer restricted by stereotypes of a woman; the sharp cut lines, boy shorts, clinical white, knee length, the shocking colours and harsh bodices; versus the soft eyelets, embroidery, the flowing fabrics, waist definition, exposed backs and the pastel pinks and blues: all facilitate the overall look of a feminine yet androgynous woman with power emanating from her head to heels.

This juxtaposition of man and woman, Dior then and Dior now, fashion in the past and future, all culminate to represent what Raf Simons vision of the Modern Dior woman, as well as represent how she came to be.

-Josephine Vermilye