The best of Dior for spring is old hat: Gianfranco Ferre does the time warp again with full-blown bustles and bows

A CHRISTIAN DIOR couture show is hard to digest. It is heavy on all the courses and leaves you reaching for the Rennies.

For Gianfranco Ferre, the designer at Dior, his latest spring- summer collection was no exception, producing ball gowns, trouser suits and cocktail dresses which spoke volumes.

Ferre has never been afraid of fabric, but these are the clothes that make a grand statement - 'I do not work because I can hardly move'.

Usually it is the big bow or enormous jabot with trailing ties that finishes the Dior outfit. This season it is the sleeve, with jackets sporting lace puffs wide enough for 10 couture customers to cry on.

Even sitting down is tricky, because the overblown bustle is back with a vengeance. Full, shantung taffeta skirts were inset with more layers than a deluxe milseuilles, a mass of tiny pleats.

By comparison, his dapper dandyesque suits accessorised with natty top hats and canes were restrained, elegant and verging on the minimal. Although we have seen this style and era too many times for it to look fresh, it is the backbone of the collection and will please his pounds 8,000-a-time customers.

Like so many of the couturiers in Paris, Ferre appears stuck in a time warp, where the clothes bear little relevance to what women want to wear today.

By continual use of historical reference points and dredging up bygone eras, he is putting women in the past, when what we are seeking is modernity, comfort and form following function.

(Photograph omitted)

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