Five thoughts on Dior's haunting fairy tale-inspired autumn/winter 2021 runway show
Versailles at night
Maria Grazia Chiuri's own brand of feminism that she's imbued into every Dior collection since taking creative charge of the house's womenswear collections, took a rather dark turn for autumn/winter 2021. The creative director looked deep into the archetypal notions of fairy tales, and reinterpreted them for today and the future.
In a rather haunting (and dark) short film, Dior took over the Palace of Versailles. It's a location that in itself holds some pretty dark secrets of its own — the construction of the famed Hall of Mirrors for example, allegedly required France to steal mirror makers from Venice — and looked every bit sinister when filmed at night.
There were some overt fairy tale references
It's hard to avoid riffing on some classic fairy tale characters when you're inspired by the subject matter. Chiuri interpreted the Little Red Riding Hood in multiple ways, including as a hooded cape (as seen on look 33), as well as using an archival rose motif to channel Beauty and the Beast. But in line with Chiuri's female empowerment beliefs, these elements weren't used to convey any parallels to the stereotypical damsels-in-distress tropes that are riddled in fairy tales. Each look was crafted with a sense of freedom and then characterised with just enough updated edge.
The set underscored the idea of breaking away from convention
With the help of Italian contemporary artist Silvia Giambrone, the Palace of Versailles' Hall of Mirrors was transformed from something that was symbolic of a man's power, to one that challenges that notion. "My idea was to come here and symbolically replace these mirrors with my mirrors — that I consider feminist mirrors — because they put conflict where there used to be power," Giambrone explains. "We don't deny history, but we can symbolically transform it."
The mirrors that Giambrone created featured thorns running through the centre and breaking out of the surface — an expression that can be interpreted as breaking apart from the traditional confines and roles put forth by the patriarchy.
Princesses wear denims too
Denim was used quite generously throughout the autumn/winter 2021 collection. There were carrot-legged jeans paired with spike-detailed flats, and a denim skirt worn with a tartan hood. The looks were subtly different when compared with the rest of the more elegant and sophisticated outfit pairings consisting mostly of tailoring and more precious fabrications. But perhaps, a considered juxtaposition from the general gothic romance vibe that the collection exuded. We do have to say though, that while most of the denim looks fit in rather seamlessly as a whole, look 19's jarring denim wash and uninspired styling seemed completely out of place.
Gowns, beautiful gowns
But of course, fairy tale princesses are known for their happily-ever-after dresses and Chiuri didn't disappoint. The evening gowns came in a spate of colours and mostly focused on a fit-and-flare silhouette typical of the kinds depicted in the source materials. What Chiuri took liberties with were the way the designs were rendered. They were elegant all the same but peppered with unconventionally dark elements. Gradient tulles that ended in a menacing tone of navy, rose appliqués that looked as though they were strewn over a checkered floor, and a pleated dress that looked almost shredded — all departures from fairy tale perfection.
That closing look
Done in a bold and powerful shade of red, the final dress was the sort of devastatingly beautiful ending that was required. The top was fashioned into a heart with layers of raw-edged tulle that reminded us of the Queen of Hearts. This is one dress we'd love to see global ambassador Jisoo in stat.