Dior shows how to look good at 60

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The Independent Online

2007 has been quite a year for Christian Dior. In January, the grand French fashion house kicked off its 60th anniversary celebrations with a Madame Butterfly-inspired haute couture collection, largely considered to be among designer John Galliano's finest moments.

Then came July's ultra-extravagant and much publicised homage to fine art's grand masters for which Dior took over the Orangerie at Versailles. Hardly a low-profile move.

Only last month, fashion's great and good gathered in Paris for the unveiling of the label's newly renovated Avenue Montaigne store, the handiwork of superstar architect Peter Marino.

With birthday celebrations still in the air then, Dior was the first big name to show at the spring/summer 2008 collections in Paris yesterday and if a look to the future may reasonably have been expected, the proceedings remained rooted in the past.

While for autumn, Galliano plundered the Dior archives for inspiration, mining the hour-glass silhouettes of the 1940s and 1950s, this went back to the 1920s and 1930s, a period long favoured by the designer.

Fashion's love affair with Galliano began with his reinvention of the bias-cut gown in the early 1990s, after all, and there is still no one in the industry who does it better. This time it was most beautiful in liquid satin and the most delicate colour palette imaginable.

The impossibly fragile lace-trimmed petticoat dress is equally lovely in his hands and the younger Dior customer will enjoy wearing it outside of the boudoir too. Pyjama dressing is à la mode on other runways and Galliano can produce it with his eyes shut.

For every ultra-feminine gown and Deco evening wrap combination there was a super-slick trouser suit, meanwhile. Particularly dashing were a black satin tuxedo and a chalk-stripe three-piece.

In the end, strip away the high-impact and supremely photogenic styling and what was left was a selling collection that was just as accomplished as might be expected but boasted little of the iconoclastic spirit that Galliano is loved for.

Given the current, unsettled retail climate, such play-safe tactics are perhaps only to be expected. The designer's by now fabled habit of staging a more intricately choreographed and melodramatic exit each season was, in the end, the most outré thing about this show. Galliano took his bows posturing and pouting in top hat, tails and crisp white tailored boxer shorts.