Dior's Maria Grazia Chiuri Puts Womanhood Front And Centre At Haute Couture Show

Kirsten Dunst, Jennifer Lawrence and Natalie Portman join front row to celebrate the fashion house's 70 year anniversary.

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You can't accuse Maria Grazia Chiuri of designing in a bubble. During the course of the six collections she's created for Christian Dior (in less than a year, mind you) she's displayed a consistent and acute awareness of the world in which she's working.

Fashion as pure escapism this is not. And the quote by the founding couturier she used as a creative starting point for her autumn/winter '17 couture collection celebrating 70 years of the house was proof: 'A complete collection should address all types of women in all countries.'

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This is a woman who kicked off her debut as creative director of the house with t-shirts declaring we should 'all be feminists' for spring/summer '17. And then followed that up with a study in workwear for autumn/winter, complete with stiff denim and boiler suits. It stood out in the house's oeuvre for its unapologetic functionalism and wearability.

Maria Grazia's woman has places to go, battles to win and a life to live.

Her newest couture collection, set against the gilded backdrop of the Hotel National des Invalides and an elaborate set designed by the Italian artist Pietro Ruffo depicting each continent complete with wooden incarnations of their native animals (giraffes in Africa, tigers in Asia), drove the point home, as did her age-diverse front row which featured the likes of Kirsten Dunst, Karlie Kloss, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Rossy de Palma.

Chiuri's clothes borrowed heavily from menswear, but projected the same sisterly, go-getter, ceiling-smashing thread she's been developing all year. The feeling was in her no-nonsense take on luxury: grey, tailored suits with voluminous ankle-skimming skirts, a shearling and leather flight suit and masculine, cashmere coats, all of which was worn with practical, thick-soled boots and demi-heels.

This woman looked notably more grown-up than Chiuri's youthful Dior collections of the past two seasons, a sense heightened by the fact that she based some of her dresses, suits and coats on archival pieces dating back to the late 1940s and early '50s.

But the same sense of modern feminism was there. Even her emphasis on heritage (the fabrics, as well as the history of the house), felt like a commentary on the lives we lead as women now.

The big question now is, how will it trickle down and translate? Over the last decade, fashion has been gradually shifting its silhouette of choice to one that is longer, swings and covers the body. With this collection, which celebrates the voluminous shapes for which Dior became famous (there was a reason the textile mills loved him so), we reach peak coverage.

As practical as that idea is, it's hard to imagine the house's millennial clients committing to floor-length herringbone wool. Chiuri's gowns on the other hand, diaphanous and embroidered, had a lightness of touch and elegance that would speak to a woman of any age. A hint of fantasy and escapism after all, for the woman navigating charged times.

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