Eight cheers for Galliano

Dior in Paris: At the Dior anniversary collection, Tamsin Blanchard watches fantastical creations emerge from the hand of the plumber's son

Twenty-four hours after the white lace, cut leather peplum jacket (left) was shown in John Galliano's first haute couture collection for Dior on Monday, it had sold. The price? More money than the average family spends on clothes in a lifetime. But this is a historical collection marking the 50th anniversary of the house of Christian Dior, and heralding a new designer, who weaves spells with his bias cutting and fantasy ball gowns.

If you have the odd pounds 50,000 knocking around, Dior would be the house where you'd spend it on your new summer wardrobe. The jacket, snapped up before you could say millionaire, was a one-off piece of exquisite craftsmanship, cut from the softest kid leather and with the mind-boggling lack of a single seam. The name of the woman who bought it will remain a secret until she wears it out to her next social engagement. Possibly it is Sao Schlumberger, the Portuguese socialite and Galliano fan, who could not take her eyes off it as it passed by her on the catwalk at the Grand Hotel. That one jacket is what haute couture is all about - buying a piece of art as clothing that does not exist anywhere else and that will make people stare in wonderment whenever it is worn.

At the Dior atelier on the swanky Avenue Montaigne the day after the show the fantastical creations were hung in huge old wooden wardrobes with lockable pull-down doors. Some of the ball gowns were so voluminous that they had to be hung from a high ceiling, their huge tulle skirts billowing above the chaos of the room. On a nearby floor, discreetly hidden in rooms within rooms of mirrors, were clients eager to squeeze themselves into a heavy satin Chinese sheath dress with an embroidered train, made for a six-foot beanpole, or a bias cut dress with frothy organza flowers overflowing from the neck. If they fit the samples, it means they don't have to return for countless fittings and the price might be reduced by a few thousand pounds. For couture customers, like the legendary skeletor Nan Kempner, it pays to be thin. Many of the dresses from the actual show are simply altered to fit the customer. Some, like the most delicate little wisp of a dress constructed out of fine organza feathers pieced together one-by-one to fit the body of an elfin model, are so frail - and tiny - that they will never be worn again.

If you have been wondering what all the fuss over the plumber's son who has become the darling of the world's most expensive women is about, here are some pictures from the first Galliano collection for Dior. If you had the money or the lifestyle, wouldn't you be seduced?

Clockwise from top left:

Galliano's take on the New Look of 1947, with hip padding and micro short A-line skirt

Classic frothy Dior ball gown

Masai beading courtesy of couture's master embroiderer Lessage

Embroidered white leather lace jacket

Belle Epoque evening dress with bottom padding and African beaded corset for the hour-glass figure

Decadent chinoiserie: gold brocade cape with gold chain fringing

Embroidered chartreuse Chinese silk evening sheath dress

Long raspberry pink satin dinner dress with knotted fringes for shoulder straps and long embroidered trail

Photographer: Ben Elwes

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