Whilst an aerial view of Raf Simons' S/S13 couture collection for Dior provided a brilliant view of the veiled hats and the winding topiary, a seated view gave one an ideal position to witness Raf's skirt story.
Skirts and their length are rooted deep in the history of the house of Christian Dior. His biography, read by Simons this summer on vacation in Puglia, is loaded with anecdotes about Dior's hemlines, the launch of his iconic New Look collection for spring/sumer 1947, where full skirts fell below mid-calf length. At a time of post-war fabric restrictions, Dior used up to twenty yards of extravagant fabrics for his creations.
1945 – "Her [Genevieve Page] Godfather Christian Dior made a dress for the occasion, black vlevet with a wide, pleated calf-length skirt, a low neckline, and a black patent leather belt. It was pure New Look. Genevieve felt a little uncomfortable in a dress of such an odd length and tried to get her godfather to drop the hem by a few centimetres. He was adamant, Genevieve recalls, "as if I had somehow attacked his authority as a designer."
Christian Dior on his autumn/winter 1947/8 collection – "This was a wild collection! It was long, it was wide! I took the famous New Look to the furthest extreme,... using an unimaginable amount of fabric and dropping hems right to the ankles."
1947 – One protester in a Newsweek interview (September 1, 1947), "long skirts are dangerous. With today's speed, you can't even catch a streetcar in a long skirt. And how can you drive an auto?"
Raf Simons also has an interesting history with skirt lengths, alongside his rigorous attention to the slim pant suit, the shirt and the peplum. Let us think back to his standout spring/summer 2011 collection for Jil Sander which was actually inspired by haute couture – briliant floor-skimming skirts in vibrant shades. Simons excels at modernity – adding pockets to elegant white wedding gowns for S/S12. At Dior, he is successfully demonstrating how to bring much-needed reality to couture. These skirts, some calf-length, others floor-length, also had pockets, and were worn with relaxed T-shirts. Swathes of fabric, balanced by small tops – it is clever economy of expression.
"At Dior, Raf is successfully demonstrating how to bring much-needed reality to couture"
"The dresses reference fashion from all sorts of eras from the 18th century sack back to tiered net skirts reminiscent of 80s tutus, made modern by Raf Simons' thoughtful touches", explains AnOther fashion editor Agata Belcen. "One of my favourites was a strapless evening-dress with a sheer panel curving up from the floor, embroidered with flowers and resembling the sinuous catwalk design."
Text by Laura Bradley