As if the palace of Versailles wasn’t spectacular enough on its own, the Hall of Mirrors within are arranged so that the space seems even more magnified, an amplification of its own grandeur. It is through mirrors that we see our reflections, but also see a distorted image of ourselves. A reflection is a flipped perspective of what we truly look like. In titling her Fall/Winter 2021 collection ‘Disturbing Beauty’, Maria Grazia Chiuri subtly acknowledges the shadow-aspect of the self.
Likewise, Dior’s show was an homage to fairy tales, but fairy tales – the true, grim “little stories” passed down by generations to teach morality tales and send kids to bed with one eye open – might have contained magic but were not always enchanting. Some are downright disturbing. There are similarly fascinating relationships that fashion has explored before: the dark and the light, the anima and the animus, the masculine and feminine. The thing and its opposite. To set this scene, Chiuri enlisted artist Silvia Giambrone, who created her own “Hall of Shadows”, which stood opposite to the “Hall of Mirrors” and whose reflective surfaces were replaced by thorny wax coverings. Reveal and conceal.
Given the specific calibrations and curations of the set, contrasted against the luminosity of Versailles, one might expect that this fairy tale story contained a dark current. Instead of the puffy gowns of princesses, we were served Little Red Riding, stomping through the forest in crimson gowns and sunglasses. Multiple “schoolgirl” outfits evoked Alice in Wonderland in her pinafores, and Goldilocks as she made herself at home in a bear’s domain. The tapestry of fabrications was as rich as the storytelling, comprising sumptuous velvets, broderie anglaise, glossy leather, tweed, jacquard. Even if there were twee elements like puffball sleeves in the mix, the tailoring was rigorous, especially in the case of an updated ‘Bar’ jacket paired with a slick black pair of boots, and a corset top arranged over a t-shirt and sheer skirt.
The gowns that closed the show were fanciful and lovely, coming in cascading ombré hues or diaphanous gowns affixed with giant flowers. They stood out from the more introspective looks that came before, seeming to conclude the fairy tale with a happy ending.
And Chiuri deserves her happy moment. The day of the show, held at one of the most special places in the world, also coincided with International Women’s Day, and the launch of Her Dior: Maria Grazia Chiuri’s New Voice, a new book published by Rizzoli that celebrates thirty-three female photographers as they capture Chiuri’s expanding Dior universe. Among the ‘Disturbing Beauty’ of the show, Chiuri must have felt like she was soaring.