FASHION | This Dior Couture Dress Took Over 250 Hours And 67 Metres Of Silk Chiffon To Make
Tonight is the 92nd Academy Awards; it’s the pinnacle of the awards season and the red carpet will be flooded with beautiful gowns, many museum-worthy and come directly from the couture runways that took place in Paris last month. The fashion worn by the attendees are often as newsworthy as the awards themselves, creating iconic moments that can launch or define one’s career.
In recent years, the Oscars have been plagued by controversies including the lack of diversity among its membership and the nominees. This year, for the second consecutive year, the esteemed awards snubbed female directors. Not one was nominated for the Best Directory category, even though many of the year’s most acclaimed films were directed by women. In the Academy Awards’ 92-year-history, only five female directors have ever been nominated and only one, Kathryn Bigelow, ever won in 2010 for The Hurtlocker.
But even against the backdrop of the controversy and the chaos of our increasingly tumultuous world, the event’s red carpet is still intriguing as attendees bring their individual styles to the Academy Awards. Some opt for beautiful crafted, fantastical couture gowns while others prefer vintage or…swans.
To celebrate the Oscars and the sartorial splendors of the red carpet, we are shining the spotlight on the Dior atelier and Maria Grazia Chiuri, the first female designer to helm the storied French brand, who always championed fashion and culture through a feminist lens.
Dior invited the media into its atelier in the chic 8th arrondissement to see the extraordinary savoir-faire that goes into creating one of these fantastical gowns. For Spring/Summer 2020, Chiuri channeled the ethereal elegance of Greek goddesses with floor-grazing gowns that featured draped bodices and plaited detailing. Dreamy silk-chiffon gowns across the colour spectrum from nude to vibrant hues were draped in different iterations from one-shoulder creations nipped at the waist with a braided belt to dipped cowl necks that fell into full skirts with undulating pleats and delicate column dresses paired with matching chiffon capes. Gold – fringed dresses and gilded suits that gave nod to the brand’s heritage were also included.
Alkassandra had the chance to learn about the intricacies involved with making one dress in the collection and followed the petit mains around on the eve of the show. The petit mains are a group of highly skilled artisans who work by hand to transform the designer’s vision into a sumptuous showpiece seen by the guests of the couture show. Some specialize in embroidery or other embellishments while others are dedicated to hand-finishing details such as the delicately rolled hems on dresses. It’s their handiwork that defines couture and also what gives it its hefty price tag, costing upwards of $100,000 for a dress.
We fell in love with this amethyst chiffon dress, the 71st look in a collection of 77, that featured a deep V-neckline that extends down the torso and hand-braided detailing down the neck and around waist.
It took a team of petit mains 250 hours over a month to complete this dress. The top of the gown, which included the deep neckline and fluttering sleeves, was created using 27 metres of silk chiffon that was painstakingly gathered into rose des vents. Square pieces of fabric were hand – gathered so they converged to a point, then knotted into the braided neckline. Because of the transparency and delicacy of the fabric, it was challenging to add structure to the bodice, which was needed to keep it in place. Chiuri opted not to use any corsetry or boning to maintain a sense of fluidity so the petit mains created structure by skillfully draping the silk chiffon over a mesh netting the inside of the gown that was used as the base. The team hand-plaited five strands of fabric on each side of the deep neckline with a cascade of rose des vents strategically woven in. the ten stands of silk chiffon that formed the neckline were then laced together into an intricate plait that anchored the bodice right below the bust.
The braided waist featured an additional 40 metres of silk chiffon that were gently draped and folded into triangular points that started at the mid-section of the dress then flowed into a languid and dreamy pool of amethyst chiffon that oscillated with each step. The hem was perhaps the most challenging as the team gently rolled it in an hand – finished it. The delicacy of the fabric meant there was no room for error as each time the needle punctured the chiffon, it would make a permanent indentation. A small slip of the hand could compromise the gown but the team were calm an meticulous as they set around a table finishing the hem a millimeter at a time.
While the Oscars may not have recognized female directing talent, the house of Dior certainly has. Since Chiuri was appointed, each collection has drawn inspiration from or collaborated with another female artist from another discipline. This season, Chiuri teamed up with American artist Judi Chicago whose woven tapestry that lined runway posing such ash ‘What if Women Ruled The World?’.