Christian Dior

Couture is the James Cameron of show season. Everything from budgets to petticoats follow one unflagging rule: the bigger, the better. Though “better” isn’t exactly the term we’d affix to the sensational Dior saga of last year. Not only did 2011 witness the graceless exit of John Galliano, the house also had to weather fervid—and still ongoing—speculation about his successor, as well as the mixed reviews of Bill Gaytten’s debut as interim creative director.

It is therefore not surprising that this particular couture presentation—Gaytten’s second—was met with some trepidation, and not a little curiosity. In his illustrious 25-year career, Galliano had proven himself time and again to be an unassailable master of the craft, and one can’t help feeling it’s no fault of Gaytten’s that he has such formidable shoes to fill. But instead of following in Galliano’s footsteps, Gaytten turned the reins and ventured down an old road that predates Galliano. His was a restrained endeavor that drew on the classic contours of idealized, trim-waisted femininity in a chaste mix of tulle and silk, prom-skirted dresses beaded sweetly with roses, and a patent-belted suit made from ostrich leather.

Even more impressive was how comfortably the clothes were carried in the face of such unmitigated sensuality. Factor in the chin-skimming Grace Kelly coifs and it become obvious that Gaytten has traded in over-the-top fantasy for the timeless refrain of old Hollywood. Aptly, the show’s soundtrack came courtesy of fellow tabloid target Lana Del Rey. It’s no John Galliano, but it’s soft, sweet, and as pop as pop can be.

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