Dior Women’s Pre-Fall 2022
As a formative experience for a creative director at a heritage house, having to wear a school uniform seems like valuable training: It’s about learning firsthand how to be creative within a framework.
Growing up in Rome during the tumultuous and violent Years of Lead, Maria Grazia Chiuri was sent to a Catholic school to finish her education, years spent tugging at her school uniform and trying to make the blazer shorter and more flattering.
She made the gesture of rolling up a hem around her waist during a preview of Dior’s frisky and diverse pre-fall collection; crisp and boyish at times, frothy and flaring at others.
The designer had a second mission with this collection: Proving that founder Christian Dior, often stereotyped for his nip-waisted, fan-skirted New Look and its linchpin Bar jacket — the Dior “uniform,” if you will — created a multitude of silhouettes, stretching the boundaries of what is considered feminine.
She took as a jumping off point Justine Picardie’s new book, “Miss Dior: A Story of Courage and Couture,” which put a spotlight on his younger sister and confidant Catherine, a French Resistance fighter and passionate gardener who greatly influenced her brother’s fashions and fragrances.
Chiuri also looked at the other influential and unconventional women in Dior’s inner circle, including the extravagant and glamorous Mitzah Bricard, who was practically synonymous with leopard prints, veiled hats, copious jewelry and Marguerite Carré, a technical genius who helped decipher the founder’s sketches and transform them into covetable clothes.
“A multiplicity of femininity,” Chiuri declared, pointing to a photo on her mood board of Dior’s closest female collaborators and couture seamstresses swarming around him after one of his early shows. “All these very strong women that supported him inside the studio together made the Dior house so strong and so powerful.”
Chiuri found a symbol for this sisterhood in the archive: a heraldic emblem that the Dior family had used on jute bags for its fertilizer business: “L’union fait la force,” or “Strength through unity” in English.
She splashed this vintage logo across the bold yellow plaids that — along with cobweb knits, biker jackets, kilts and heavy boots — fed the punk energy coursing through her varied takes on uniform dressing.
Hearing Chiuri talk about her personal relationship with her clothes explains a lot about the pre-fall collection, vast in its offer of daywear, with a concise eveningwear proposition, mostly in gossamer black fabrics, plus some dressy items like fil coupé blouses and brocade pencil skirts.
“On the one side, I’m a collector, and on the other side, I have some clothes that are like my constant companions,” she said, rattling off things like her Bar and boyfriend jackets from her early Dior collections, cargo pants, cashmere sweaters, a “security dress” for special occasions, and her go-to black tuxedo.
“My wardrobe is not so big,” she said. “I have very specific pieces that stay in my wardrobe for a long time.”
But don’t expect her to be able to tell you in advance what she might wear for a specific event, suggesting that instincts and personal expression are always stronger than any uniform. “This is about the moment,” she said.