John Galliano (British, born Gibraltar, 1960) for Christian Dior (French, founded 1947). Dress, spring/summer 2003. Red silk tulle with crocodile appliqué. Gift of Christian Dior Couture, 2003 (2003.438).
John Galliano’s conflations of diverse cultures and historic periods are the most fevered and unexpected of any contemporary designer. In this garment, from his ready-to-wear collection at Christian Dior, Galliano appears to cite the late 1920s, when the knee-baring chemise was transitioning into the bias cut languor of the 1930s. In addition, he seems to have reprised the panniered, or side-hooped, shapes of the period’s robes de style, and the handkerchief hems favored for evening dresses of the time. In his use of silk tulle, a weightless textile of great elasticity, Galliano suggests the phenomenon of the planarity of the 1920s silhouette beginning to give way to more body-cleaving styles. The designer draped the cloth with the angled seaming characteristic of bias cuts and then applied shaped platelets of leather in a crocodile-like pattern to convey the impression of reptilian skins cobbled together. In its Amazonian exoticism and Jazz Age glamour, the dress might have costumed Josephine Baker.