Christian Dior goes back to basics with revamped 1950s look

By Thomas Adamson, AP

PARIS–Christian Dior revamped its signature New Look for its 2012 spring-summer haute couture collection, with stand-in designer Bill Gaytten playing it safe, with success, following last season’s panning.

Monday’s show got started fashionably late — but Dior is tardy in more ways than one. The front row was abuzz over Dior’s ongoing silence on the appointment of a new creative director. Would it be Raf Simons, artistic director of Jil Sander? Or perhaps French designer Haider Ackermann? But the fashionistas were quickly jolted back into focus as floaty silk crepe silhouettes with nipped waists — in shades of beige, aubergine, red, black and white — filed through the sumptuous salons of the couturier on the Avenue Montaigne. Gaytten had clearly hit on the house’s bread-and-butter pieces that go back to the 1947 collection that introduced fashion to a new ladylike look that thrived through the next decade and was copied many times over. It was a back-to-basics move following the fall-winter couture flop. Despite its predictability, the collection somehow worked, perhaps by dint of its subtlety and textural detail. A classic A-line bar suit was given a light touch in ultra-feminine sheer silk with a full skirt, giving the show an ethereal, otherworldly feel. Black silk dresses were painstakingly embroidered with delicate beads, followed by knee-length skirts featuring long knife-pleats that fluttered like butterfly wings. One model looked so weightless in cascading chiffon she might have taken off in flight had she walked just a bit faster. The piece de resistance came near the end: a floor-length ballgown with a full black-and-white tulle skirt that brushed teasingly past photographers. When Gaytten came to take his bow, he winked, perhaps because he knew he had produced some solid couture. “I could show you a picture of every single one of those dresses from the 1950’s. They were all copied. But it worked, it really did,” said British fashion writer Colin McDowell. It-girl of the moment, Olivia Palermo, summed it up: “Sometimes it’s good to go back to basics.”