Dior makes very pretty clothes that are as easy to wear as they are to understand. I say that because, often, clothes can be pretty but puzzling at the same time. Now, under the direction of designer Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior speaks to women loud and clear. What’s Grazia Chiuri got to say? For one, “We Should All Be Feminists”—the theme of her breakout collection for the house of Dior for Spring 2017.
The theme was taken from the essay of the same name written by the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a brilliant manifesto on womanhood and citizenship that reads like the Wakandan Bill of Rights. Most people who wear the now ubiquitous T-shirt don’t know its origin, but they’ve gotten the message that the future is female.
Which brings us to Wednesday’s Dior Fall/Winter 2018/2019 presentation in Paris, where Dior’s women were still on the march. The collection was inspired by Paris’ “youthquake” in the summer of 1968, when students literally took to the streets, ripping cobblestones from the ground and hurling them at police, demanding better employment opportunities and reform of the university system. Being ever fashion-minded, young women protested long hemlines in front of the Dior boutique, brandishing signs reading, “Support the Mini Skirt.”
Grazia Chiuri, who is Italian and the former designer of Valentino, stumbled upon the photo while searching Dior’s archives, as she recounted to London’s Guardian newspaper:
And then I discovered that [Marc] Bohan’s response, [who designed Dior at the time], to this was to introduce the Miss Dior line, to give these younger consumers what they wanted. I thought it was so interesting to see fashion listening to women. And there is something about now that is similar to 1968. This is another moment when everything is changing.
Yes, we are again in a moment when everything is changing regarding women in the workplace and shaping the perception of our own beauty and our bodies. With the advent of social media—which in this writer’s opinion has done as much for black women’s beauty as hip-hop has done for black men’s voices—we are in an era of unparalleled agency on our own behalf. Grazia Chiuri is listening, and poised to provide us the uniform.
The clothes at Dior this week were a throwback to a time when flower power and femininity were one and the same. Long, easy dresses in bright floral prints, patchwork coats and rose-colored glasses to no doubt help us get through dark times sailed down the runway with a youthful ease. Mixed in were sweaters emblazoned with slogans like “C’est non, non et non” (“It’s no, no and no”), in a nod to the new-age rules of sexual consent.
Another strong theme shown at Dior and trending across runways from New York, London, Milan and now Paris this season were relaxed boxy blazers worn over kilts and pleated skirts. I don’t think it’s so much that designers want women to be schoolgirls, but it’s a way to show that women are teaching the world right now—and changing the rules for the better.
March on, ladies. On this first day of Women’s History Month, we owe our mothers a debt and our daughters a future of freedom and dignity for womanhood across the globe. But in order to get there, to paraphrase Adichie, “We all need to be feminists.”