Coined in quarantine, concepts of #WFH, physicality, and comfortwear must have been a feast for the pragmatic eye of Maria Grazia Chiuri. High fashion’s foremost ergonomist, the Christian Dior designer was on a quest to unite the desirable with the wearable long before lockdown set in—and to the tune of the till bell, mind you. In the changed fashion landscape of 2020, she explained that her mission has intensified. “We had to approach this collection with an idea more of design. We are living in a different way and staying more at home within our intimacy. Our clothes have to reflect this new style of life.”
Presented to a socially distanced audience in a tent in the Jardin des Tuileries, her collection was—rest assured—a far cry from the cashmere track tops and cocktail earrings of “Zoom dressing,” but a study in how one might adapt the tailored silhouette of Christian Dior (hardly your kick-back-and-relax type of kit) to a comfy new wardrobe sensibility. “This is very far from the Dior look, because Dior was a couture house. The idea of construction was really stiff,” Chiuri acknowledged. “The most important issue for me was to realize the new Dior silhouette: the jacket with the shirt and the pants. I think that is what really represents the feeling of the moment. I cross my fingers.”
Early in the show, that holy trinity was expressed to such extremes you wouldn’t have guessed these garments had been derived from the idea of the Dior suit. Jackets ballooned into dressing gowns, shirts elongated into tunics, and trousers grew ever slouchier in width. Chiuri covered the whole thing in Mediterranean paisleys, mixing it up with her favorite peplos dresses and Roman sandals. “For a long time, there was a moment in fashion when clothes had to have a dialogue with other people, to express your opinion to other people. At this moment in time, I think it’s more about a personal relationship with ourselves,” Chiuri reflected. “You want to take care of yourself. I feel that, so I think other people need that feeling too.”
She applied her philosophy to less abstract jacket-trouser-shirt constellations toward the end of the show in a series of boxy trouser and skirt suits that centered on defining an hourglass silhouette by gently emphasizing its waist. It wasn’t about constricting the body but about enfolding its natural curves, proposing how comfortwear might work in a more formal wardrobe. If comfy-looking clothes don’t exactly conjure images of the glamour many hanker for post-lockdown, Chiuri threw in some frilly flou that felt like a proposition for something more seductive. Barely touching the skin, those dresses were entirely at home within her principles of body liberation.
Researching the collection, Chiuri’s findings brought her back to her native Italy, which has—unlike the formal French salons in which she now finds herself—historically embraced a less fantastical and more realistic approach to fashion. Through conversations with the 1960s functionalist designer Nanni Strada, she learned about comfortable garment constructions. Rediscovering the work of artist Lucia Marcucci, whose woman-centric collages from the 1960s played with the media’s image of women versus the liberation voices on the rise at the time, she asked the director Alina Marazzi to make a film about her.
It screened online before the show, the set of which was surrounded by Marcucci’s retro collages interpreted in the stained glass of cathedral windows. Cheekily nailing the show’s themes of freedom, her sound designer Michel Gaubert enlisted a group called Roseblood to performSangu di Rose, a moody 19th-century piece in which women sing about their newfound lack of limitation after their husbands have all been sent to prison. After months in lockdown, that one was up for individual interpretation.
Photography: Alessandro Lucioni