Creative director of Christian Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri, has recently dedicated her Spring/Summer 2023 haute couture collection to the iconic Josephine Baker, an American-born French Black star and civil rights activist of the 20th century.
After discovering that Baker was a client of the house, Chiuri was inspired by the powerful and empowered woman that Baker was, not just for her performances as a cabaret star, but also for her involvement in the French Resistance during WWII. In 2021, Baker was finally honored as one of the greats of the French nation when her name was inscribed at the Pantheon in Paris.
The collection was designed to be more 1920s inspired, with a cleaner, less voluminous, and more pared-back approach, drawing inspiration from less well-known photographs of Baker in restaurants, wearing day-suits, and in uniform during the war. The show was surrounded by a gallery of portraits of similarly ground-breaking Black and biracial Hollywood actors and models of the 20th century, with Josephine Baker at the center.
The collection featured shimmery Deco-like beaded shifts that recalled flapper dresses, and green-room looks with silver tap-pants or structured lingerie. The most notable piece was an outstanding gold cloque midi suit, the jacket reminiscent of the iconic 1947 Bar jacket, but structured, sans corsetry to skim the body rather than nip.
Chiuri took a clever approach to de-boning and un-fussifying the grandeur of the off-the-shoulder Dior ballgown, using artfully creased satins, in slate gray, liquid silver, or pale gold. The real surprises were in the time Chiuri took to show her sober and impeccably-cut tailoring: the simplicity of double-breasted Dior gray skirt suits; a minimally perfect tuxedo coat; long, slim silhouettes in black. All there was in the way of decoration was on the feet: velvet, embroidered, ankle-strapped platform sandals.
This collection is a tribute to the powerful and inspiring woman that Josephine Baker was, and is sure to have modern-minded clients racing to Christian Dior to fill that yawning gap in chic things to wear for the day. Chiuri’s project at Christian Dior is “to renovate” and render the classical canon of the house to be lighter and easier to wear. This collection is a perfect example of that.