- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 31, 2016

BLENHEIM PALACE, England (AP) - Dior returned Tuesday to England’s Blenheim Palace to unveil its Cruise collection in glamorous surroundings that evoked the distinctive days of Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent.

The show brought a modern, sassier Dior back to the site of earlier triumphs in 1954 and 1958, when shows attended by Princess Margaret introduced austere, post-war Britain to the style and beauty of French fashion at its finest.

Blenheim, traditionally the residence of the Duke of Marlborough, is one of England’s grandest palaces and was the birthplace of wartime leader Winston Churchill.

“I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” said Randolph Churchill, Winston’s great-grandson, after the models had paraded through the stately home’s library. “For Dior to come back to Blenheim and put that sparkle makes it a great occasion. There were so many happy, excited faces.”

Standing next to a display of dresses first shown by Christian Dior at the 1954 show, Randolph said it was inspiring to see the great works of an earlier era.

“Today’s collection was cutting edge, enlightening,” he said. “These older ones are simple classic pieces, everything you could ever want.”

Lady Rosemary Muir, daughter of the 10th Duke of Marlborough and a maid of honor at Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1952, was perhaps less impressed by Tuesday’s show.

“It’s difficult for me to equate what I saw today to what I saw in 1958,” she said diplomatically.

Asked which show she preferred, she said: “‘58.”

Tuesday’s gala drew a host of celebrities, including Kate Beckinsale, Elizabeth Olsen, and Kate Mara, with many traveling from London to the Blenheim Palace area in a specially chartered train with elegant, restored cars from the 1950s and earlier.

The Dior design team led by Lucie Meier and Serge Ruffieux said the new collection was meant in part to show “the conversation between France and England” - to reflect the long cultural and fashion interplay between the two countries, which have often traded trends.

Indeed, some of the pieces made references to British hunting styles, and countryside elegance, but overall the effect was more French than English - except for the extensive use of the Beatles, who dominated the soundtrack with the song “Because” from Abbey Road.

Many of the pieces showed the classic Dior silhouette and workmanship. There were velvets and silks in Asian and African prints and bold patterns and embroideries.

Dior offered a new twist on its signature bow, leaving it undone in the front of many outfits, looking like elegant ribbons adding movement and gaiety to the scene. Some of the full-length gowns featured plunging necklines, while some of the shorter dresses had a more slouchy look.

Former model and human rights activist Bianca Jagger said the theme of interplay between France and England was particularly relevant as the June 23 referendum on British membership in the European Union nears.

“I love the idea of a dialogue between France and the U.K.,” she said. “It’s so fitting at the moment when we would like to stay in Europe. It’s important at all levels, cultural, economic, fashion. I just think we are all part of Europe and we want to stay together.”

Actress Emma Roberts took a more practical view: She loved the handbags.

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