Dior: Models on safari
In Dior’s great salon, tropical Africa mounts the mantelpiece in florists’ jungles of palms and ferns and monkey puzzles. The model girls stalk through on swift safari. Their suits have hipster skirts with curb-chain belts, slung at the side with hunters’ trophies. Jackets are patch-pocketed and belted. Stockings are thick and thornproof, shoes clumpy heeled and laced. Felt safari hats in hot African colours are tied on with straps beneath their lovely, arrogant chins. They are big-game hunters to a woman, dollar trappers of a modern world in which the game’s the thing. As evening shadows fall, the game gets faster, the girls more predatory… prowling in man-hunter pyjamas through the virgin forest, camouflaged by the jungle prints which clothe their limbs with silken movement. But always one shoulder is bared, gleams white and vulnerable.
This may be a simplification of the Dior collection, but it is not a dramatisation. There was drama in the stupendous prints inspired, they say, by Negro art, drama in the totem dresses made of wood paillettes and glinting sequins, and in the sudden revelation that a dress, a simple winging shift dress, was au fond a divided skirt, divided – and therein lay its secret – by a deep inverted pleat which started high, high up from a plastron yoke.
There was also surprise. Surprise in the shortness of the skirts. These were 2cm. – no surely 2in. – shorter than in Dior’s last collection whereas the expectation had been on a slight lengthening this spring to prepare for an autumn fall. As things have turned out, they are about 4in. above the knee. And the skirts have pleats: pleats at the front and at the back, but never at the sides. They look young, alive and kicking, yet are sophisticated – not at all jeune fille. Marc Bohan (Dior’s designer) brings back revers jackets. These look new again after so many seasons of collarless jackets and crater necklines. His jackets are all single-breasted, and his long-sleeved blouses have neat shirt collars.
It was a collection full (perhaps too full) of detail… all those flaps upon the pockets, all those buttons on the flaps. Depend upon it, we shall be seeing many of the details within a week or two in London. There will be those curb-chain belts which appeared on everything. On top-coats, suit jackets, even on evening dresses. And those wooden buttons designed as Brazil nuts, and those glinting bronze stockings worn with bronze, broad-toed shoes. In the sum, one was left with the feeling of a couture house seething with ideas, so many ideas that Marc Bohan has had difficulty in directing them into a couture course – and yet has suceeded.
Ricci: for cowboys and cocktails
It looks as if the culotte dress will be the hit of the season. It appeared here and there at many of the lesser houses early in the week, was confirmed at Dior yesterday morning, and later in the day was the main theme running through the whole of Nina Ricci’s enchanting collection. Gerard Pipart, Ricci’s designer, takes the idea a step farther with all-in-one culotte dresses, silk prints and plain, for every hour of the day, every occasion, informal and formal.
Like Dior, Ricci shows safari suits with longish jackets. Some of the Ricci safaris, instead of skirts, have almost knee length shorts. These suggest that they may be a trailer towards lowering the skirt hem next season. The suits are in natural silk or stretch gaberdine and compare favourably with the Dior safaris, by being simpler, less dressed up with pockets, tabs, and buttons. The girls wear mid-calf linen boots and Texan hats. The non-safari suits are made of check wool-like bistro tablecloths. Strictly tailored shirt blouses in shantung cut in, as at Dior, to the skirt top, which is broadly leather belted. As at Dior, they carry the embroidered monogram of the couture house. Plain silk squares are casually tied to one side of the throat.
For cocktails and dancing Ricci has a dress which may well challenge the success of Cardin’s famous halter dress and be copied far and wide. It is made of layer upon layer of different coloured chiffon – all the same length. It swirls out from the shoulders in a rainbow of colour; it floats, it flirts, it dances. Then there are the Ginger Rogers jackets – teasing 1930 wisps of chiffon and ostrich feathers. This was a collection to lift the heart at the tail end of a wet January day.