Thursday, January 6, 2011

The New Look, Deconstructed

Would you mind terribly if I continued to gloat about the awesome gifts Santa brought me this Christmas? After coveting a certain outrageously big and expensive book for years, it is finally mine all mine! I’m speaking of the book Dior, a massive hulk of a tome that could easily break several toes if dropped. It’s huge, glossy, and gorgeous. I’m seriously considering tracking down one of those book stands that huge dictionaries are situated on in libraries so that I have it available for my perusing pleasure at all times. (Okay, perhaps not all that seriously.)

Anyway, the point is, I am obsessed with this book. It celebrates 60 years of the famous couture house’s designs with huge, gorgeous photographs. I was not surprised to be drooling over the earliest New Look designs of 1947, but I was unexpectedly drawn to the Galliano years. Don’t get me wrong, Galliano is a genius, but the early years of Dior have always been my thing. Well, now I have discovered Galliano’s fall/winter 2005 couture collection, and I seem to have a new obsession. Galliano was brought to Dior in 1997 to design a 50th anniversary tribute to the seminal New Look collection. Well, the book posits that the designer didn’t actually truly achieve a tribute collection until 2005.

But the collection goes beyond being a tribute; it’s a brilliant deconstruction of the New Look. And more than that, it makes the New Look fabulously transparent, wrenching out the innards for all to see. Take this dress:
See how the organza bodice dispays the boning and padding underneath? And then there's the draped skirt, revealing hip pads underneath, which were an integral part of the New Look construct. (I blogged about hip padding here, if you're interested.) In the runway piece, you can even see a bit of bust padding slipping out.

Here's another example from the book, in a lovely blue-violet shade.
One of my favorite details from these dresses are the handwritten labels, which are displayed on the outside of the bodice. Early Dior pieces had these labels on the inside to identify the style names.
These dresses are, arguably, much more striking on the dress form than on a model. Perhaps the concept was taken too far with the styling (i.e. the wig caps and drawn-on eyebrows). It would be interesting to see these looks on a model made up with classic early 50s hair and make-up, allowing the deconstruction of the dresses to stand out in contrast.
This one takes it a step further by mimicking the look of a dress form underneath the draped skirt.
So why are these looks so invaluable to the modern retro seamstress? Well, there are few things I love more than finding a close-up shot of the interior of a vintage Dior gown. With their intricate corselets, bust and hip padding, waist stays, crinolines, handwritten labels, boning and taffeta linings, I’ll admit that I sometimes find them more lovely than the gown itself. I’ve always been intrigued by the architecture of complicated vintage clothing, and it doesn’t get much better than a New Look Dior. And photos of these interiors are, sadly, few and far between. I love that Galliano takes the artifice of the designs and makes that the focal point.

Do you find this collection inspiring or bizarre--or both? These looks have me dreaming of making a lingerie-inspired dress with lots of boning, tulle, organza, and peach satin!


  1. Totally inspiring. I want to see them up close and personal. I want to feel and touch them.

  2. I think they're beautiful - so ethereal.

  3. Wow. That book has been a lemming for some time, but because I could only get it through Amazon, which meant I couldn't actually see inside, I was doubtful if the contents were worth the buck! And now I know they are, so back on the wishlist it goes :-)

  4. Galliano gowns are fab. I love the theatrical quality and my mind just spins contemplating how they're made. A modern genius in my eye.
    Thanks for the pics!
    Another book added to the wish list :)
    I think there needs to be a book just studying the interiors of vintage couture clothing.

  5. There isn't a dress I love that I don't want to turn inside out. I love the idea of these runway looks, and think that using them as inspiration for some deconstructed frothy goodness sounds great!

  6. Should you ever come to France, you must try and pop over to the Dior Museum in Granville, a couple of hours away from Paris. It has a different exhibition every year - this year's was all about balls and fancy dress parties (last year it was the Bohan years, etc). Whilst it always features some early Dior, it also includes several Galliano dresses (different every year) that you get to see close up. The ones presented this year included the Midnight Poison dress, as worn by Eva Green in the advert (which was immediately voted the best by the tweenies I was with!), and several of the catwalk dresses from Dior's 60th anniversary show. Some of them were absolutely extraordinary, but what was most fascinating was seeing the construction - including how some of them were falling apart in places, with stitches coming loose, either from the sheer weight of the draping, or maybe when the models took them off again? It's not a big museum, but the anniversary exhibition a few years ago was absolutely amazing, with people coming from all over, like on a pilgrimage. One early Dior dress defied understanding - whichever way you looked at it, you couldn't see a single seam. What I wouldn't have given to get my hands on it, to try and grasp how it was made!

  7. Be still my heart. I have loved Galliano every since I first got wind of him. Widely creative, if not genius. Yes, truly inspirational.

  8. Love it! I agree with you completely, the dresses look far better on the form then on the model. They seem like their not supposed to be worn, rather admired as a sculptural piece. I would like to get up close to one of them!

  9. I like these a lot. I wish there were "hands-on" versions to see up close and personal, but a book would also be fantastic. (Also, images 18-33 of the page you linked to have more wearable hair and make-up; I wonder why the wig caps and sinister eyebrows with the other pieces?) Thanks for sharing this!

  10. I guess I'm the one dissenter. I don't like the "dresses" if only because they are unwearable. I want to be inspired by clothing that I could wear in real life. These dresses are interesting in a "hey look at how weird that is" kind of way. Not a "wow, I want to make/wear that" way.

  11. I'm so envious, that is a gorgeous book! You have to be at the top of your game to make an inside out dress, and of course the hands at Dior are that. I find the collection inspiring!

  12. Galliano is a god! I love all of his creations! I really loved what he did in 2008. I'm very excited to find out from Nathalie that there is a Doir museum! I wish I knew that before when I was visiting Paris, would have been a muss see! Thanks for telling us about the book it’s now on my whish list. Have you seen this one?

    Backstage Dior
    by Roxanne Lowit


  13. I love them. I think the makeup is bizarre but the dresses are beautiful. I was translating certain sections in sheer knits to go with dresses. Very inspirational I may have to ask for the book for my birhday!

  14. The makeup is perfect for the bizarre dress. It is the deconstructed makeup with the deconstructed dress. The wig is not yet on, the brows are not yet blended.

    The dresses are interesting as art, which is what I view couture runways as anyway. Anyone saying they are not wearable misses the point.

  15. I'd have to go with inspirational, rather than bizarre! The styling is a bit weird on the runway, as you pointed out, but isn't that so for most haute couture collections? ;) I definitely love seeing the "innards" of a New Look era Dior dress reinterpreted; all the padding and boning is stunning and really a marvel to look at. All those hours and fittings that it takes to get an impeccable fit. Wow!

    ♥ Casey | blog

  16. I LOVE it. The look inside makes them more personal, fragile and imho gives life and story to that, what we see as the "completed" dress.
    We can turn pages so quickly and maybe think "whoa, that dress must have took AGES to finish" and were left out of sweet little facts, like, did someone have troubles getting the fabric, was it intended like that what we see anyway...etc.

  17. Love your blog!
    thank you so much for this post, i'm currently writing my dissertation on post war fashion the influence of Dior's new look. Your post has been a great source of inspiration i was suffering a bit of writers block and this has helped so much! thankyou!


  18. Inspiring! absolutely wonderful. And like an earlier poster said, "ethereal", for sure.

  19. I've been to that museum in Granville - I really enjoyed it, but it proves how little I know about dress making because I didn't notice much that Nathalie picked up on... Feel like a numbskull now!

    1. I think fashion are more and more improve in today. I love these dresses and love it. Thanks for sharing here.

      Palestine Attractions


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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