In this gown from John Galliano's controversial "Hobo" collection for Dior, extravagant, changeable silk taffeta is whipped into a spiraling vortex. The naturally stiff "hand" of taffeta and the virtuosity of the Dior atelier contribute to this illusion of fabric come to life. From neckline to train, four parallel panels, each longer than the next, are angled into a body-conforming bias. The gown recalls both the aerodynamic sleekness of the 1930s, in its second-skin fit, and the 1950s illustrations by René Gruau of fabric snaking around bodies and spinning into space.
Here, as in many of Galliano's creations, the merging of diverse sources has resulted in a design less grafted together than cross-pollinated into a new hybrid. Over the years, whether the references have been to les merveilleuses of the Directoire, courtesans of the Belle Époque, or sophisticates of between-the-wars café society, Galliano has consistently assimilated the styles and sensibilities of the past into convincing contemporary glamour. While his creations are generally apolitical and a historical-the result of an intuitive, primarily visual synthesis-an implicit social critique may be read in this confection of haute couture, inspired by the rag-swaddled image of a Parisian tramp.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "blog.mode: addressing fashion," December 18, 2007–April 13, 2008.