Beverly Glenn-Copeland's La Vita plays through the halls of Museé Rodin, the walls are covered in giant portraits of Josephine Baker and other trailblazing Black women like Eartha Kitt and Nina Simone by Mickalene Thomas. The tone has been set. Josephine Baker, princess of the Jazz age, of the roaring 20s and the French Resistance and of the Civil Rights Movement and Christian Dior himself, has been reinstated as an icon of the House of Dior.
Ernest Hemingway once called her “the most sensational woman anyone ever saw.” And for Christian Dior's Spring Summer 2023 Haute Couture show, the House reflected on her history as a muse of Dior, while paying homage to her astounding legacy through swinging fringe and kiss curls, crushed velvet and 20s suiting, watery silk lamé and delicate beading. It was a restoration of sorts, for Baker's place in Dior's history is often forgotten. For Maria Grazia Chiuri, this was no longer an acceptable way to carry on.
The collection offered a counterpoint to the infamous Banana Dress that Baker's image has become so synonymous with today. The tailoring was sharp and masculine, the Bar Jacket reworked in black wool with precise darting through the torso, and later in crushed silk, both worn with matching skirts. Baker's Jazz club dressing room is evoked with slinky bodysuits and satin underwear which are layered with quilted velvet robes. Beaded gowns with gold and silver fringing sway in time with the body, and as the exits continue, tailoring makes way for fluidity with gowns that melt off the body in swaths of silk and velvet.
In ways, it felt like one of the most transgressive shows since Chiuri's early days, making room for the body, for gestures of awareness and of redressing representation, wrapped up in a collection that was purely beautiful and transportive, reminding us of an era where everything was new, dangerous, and exciting. Over a century on, it feels as though we are collectively ready to revisit these moments in time. Forget 20 years ago, we want to investigate what it was like 100 years ago, when revealing silk underwear was salacious and everything in between was a cause for scandal. In a fashion landscape that is increasingly at risk of feeling homogenous, Dior reminds us that there is more to it than shock jock tactics and message-less Y2K revival. As one of the first shows of Spring Summer 2023 Haute Couture week, the iconic House stands in the full beauty of couture, Baker's incomparable legacy presiding over it all.
Watch the full Christian Dior Spring Summer 2023 Haute Couture Show, and see all of the looks below.