#SuzyCouture: Dior’s Circus Comes To Town

The women, balancing on each other’s bodies at the Christian Dior presentation, were far more then a circus act – even if the showplace this season looked like a Big Top from outside and a glittering marquee within.

Creative Director Maria Grazia Chiuri had chosen all-female acrobatic performers in sport-friendly Dior clothes, not knowing that this would be her personal apotheosis: The moment when her vision of strong women in feather-light clothes seemed in perfect sync with the noble Paris house.

This ravishing collection – strong, chic and supremely high-level in its workmanship – produced both a powerful vision for Dior and a touch of whimsy, which has not been typical in Maria Grazia’s vision to this point.

Using first a palette of black, white and red, then interspersals of golden yellow, fading and brightening, the collection looked easy, unfussy and modern. The little hats, like metallic swimming caps, brought in the wit of milliner Stephen Jones.

For every half-dozen dresses or tailored outfit, there was the occasional performance piece, such as a short black dress popping with red dots; or a shirt made with prints of a circus wheel.

“The idea to parade at the circus is not too far from when you have to parade down a catwalk,” the designer said. “Each dress represents someone. You have the trapeze artist and the clown.”

But at the heart of this Dior wardrobe were sensible clothes, like the black trouser suit the designer wore to take a bow. In a lighter spirit was a simple white shirt, lightly decorated, and a black lacy skirt. The whole collection spelt out a message: Strong women; light clothes.

Why the circus – a subject that many designers have covered, including Christian Dior himself? Precisely for that reason. There was the famous picture by Avedon from 1955 of “Dovima With Elephants” – the model wearing the first dress designed for Dior by junior recruit Yves Saint Laurent.

Maria Grazia said that Christian Dior was known to be close to the circus in Avignon and also in Paris. “Then, two years ago I saw a beautiful parade painting by Picasso and I imagined a collaboration between artists to do something with the circus.”

Childhood memories mixed with her Italian culture took her to Fellini, whose vision of the theatre she describes as “nostalgic and at the same time fun”.

The sensitive use of Mimbre, an all-female British acrobat troupe, was echoed by the clothes, which meant that even ankle-length outfits were never constricting. One skirt had a ribbon strip that left legs to move freely; while an organza playsuit, embellished with sequins and rhinestones, was complex, clown-like, and fun.

From the harlequin-patterned floor to the piled-high acrobats, this Dior collection was entertaining but also profound. And a fine example of relevant haute couture.