Christian Dior's 60th birthday celebration was a grand bouffée of such vast and extended proportionscouture at Versailles in July, resort in New York in August, a monumental Paris dinner in Septemberthat the only place left to go had to be back down to earth. As a global behemoth, Dior does publicity like no one else (except its LVMH sister Louis Vuitton), and so, after all the heady image-making, a pragmatic payoff was obviously the plan for ready-to-wear.
Sting's Englishman in New York set the theme (he was there in the audience, too) for a light, nonintellectual revival of all the patterns John Galliano has amassed through his ten-year career at Dior. Under the guise of twenties-through-forties styling, he brought back his pantsuits as pinstripe three-pieces and Marlene Dietrich white-tie tailcoats, reprised the pagoda-shouldered silhouettes of his Madame Butterfly collection, and, of course, laid on a rendering of his signature bias cutting in jazz-age chiffon and thirties charmeuse.
Is Galliano at his happiest when discharging such commercial duties? In the past, it's grated on him, but this wasn't one of his camp-hysteria evasions, nor was it one of his more passive-aggressive collections of bottom-line merchandise. There were pretty, accessible things: palest dusty eau-de-nil chiffons, a sugar-pink, silver-embroidered evening jacket with a sinuous, traily skirt, and a knowing nod to the current feel for pajama dressing. Oh, and handbags. In one sense, the show made an unexceptionable job of broadcasting what Christian Dior stands for in reality through the many markets it has conqueredit was a counterweight to the high-flown flourishes of earlier this year. In another, it missed the flair and humor Galliano can muster at his best. If there was any lingering hint of ennui in Sting's insistent refrain of "I'm an alien" (Galliano is a great one for sending aural messages), it didn't extend to the designer's frankly hilarious finale pose as a cigarette-smoking Englishman, caught in top hat, tails, voluminous white underpants, and a pair of suspendered socks.