- Associated Press - Monday, July 2, 2018

PARIS (AP) - Guests including Katie Holmes and Kate Bosworth were taken deep inside the inner workings of Christian Dior for the French brand’s nostalgic couture display that celebrated the artistry of the atelier.

Hundreds of retro busts and mannequins in unfinished-looking white gowns flanked the runway walls - from floor to ceiling - inside Paris’ Rodin Museum as designs showcased the pared-down finesse of age-old couture.

Here are some highlights of the fall-winter collections shown Monday.

DIOR GOES BACK TO BASICS

There was an old-school vibe in the perfumed air of Dior: 1950s’ berets, veils and costume jewelry filed by in its Paris show.

Thick fabrics reminiscent of post-World War II styles were used evocatively in a midnight blue cape coat and a three-piece ensemble with a fringed spiral-sleeve bolero.

The sheer restraint of the palette of powdery shades against nudes also harked back to a time, before the proliferation of bright colors in the 1960s, where designers still preferred subtle hues.

This season, the program notes said “(designer) Maria Grazia Chiuri goes back to the fundamentals.”

It made for a beautifully executed couture collection of 71 looks - but one that seemed to lack energy and avoided any huge creative leaps.

Still, there was plenty of beauty.

A raspberry double-face silk scuba bustier dress was sewn from just a single piece of fabric.

Chiuri developed silhouettes based on the batwing sleeve from the Bar Jacket - the centerpiece of Dior’s iconic 1947 “New Look” that revolutionized post-War fashion.

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AVENUE MONTAIGNE BOUTIQUE GETS WRAPPED

Dior has had its iconic Avenue Montaigne store completely wrapped in colorful feminism-themed tarpaulin to celebrate 50 years since the May 1968 protests in France.

The protests, which triggered seismic shifts in the women’s rights movement, were referenced in eye-catching images on the 20-meter (66-foot) high artwork, which had passers-by reaching for their cameras.

Slogans on it such as “Women Empowerment” and “It’s No, No and No,” were also the words branded on an original Miss Dior scarf.

The spectacle ties in with the house’s fall-winter ready-to-wear show by their unapologetically-feminist designer, Chiuri, the first woman to occupy that post.

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VAN HERPEN’S IMAGINATION

Dutch wunderkind Iris Van Herpen merged the organic and the electronic to demonstrate why she’s considered among the most artistic couture designers working in Paris today.

A gown made of zigzag strips that resembled radio waves undulated down a model with a stylish bounce. It enveloped her body like a butterfly cocoon against the futuristic show decor of fibrous, triangular metal bars.

Elsewhere, a blood or rose red fabric skirt looked like a half-dissected heart and was hung from the neck by metallic threads. It was one of the 17-piece show’s most beautiful looks.

Beyond the edgy theme, this season the 34-year-old Van Herpen showed she has a real hand for delicate couture work. The zigzag motif was handled sublimely on a gray creation with knife pleating that looked like a human had mated with a jellyfish.

Its dramatic headpiece was blown, as if by a wave, across the face.

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SCHIAPARELLI IS WHIMSICAL

The House of Schiaparelli said to expect the “unexpected and daring” for its couture display.

And as multicolored nylon neo-faux fur, zebra jacquard, golden winged leopard masks, butterfly and dog motifs as well as innumerable blooms paraded past the fashion elite inside the Paris opera, it didn’t disappoint.

The 41 looks, designed by Bertrand Guyon, aimed to capture the whimsical eclecticism of the late, great couturier Elsa Schiaparelli.

She was one of the most famous fashion designers in between the two World Wars when Surrealism was at its height, and she was heavily influenced by artists such as Salvador Dali.

Surrealist touches in the Monday show - from the sound of buzzing insects to faces obscured by flowers, and padlocks - proliferated in designs that moved from narrow fitted jackets for daywear to smoldering liquid satin draping for the night.

At times, some looks appeared a tad heavy-handed.

But that didn’t seem to bother the many VIPs, such as actress Melissa George and socialite Nicky Hilton, who applauded vigorously from the front row.

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DIOR COLLABORATES WITH V&A;

At a sparkling cocktail at the British Embassy in Paris, Dior announced that it will stage its biggest exhibit in the U.K. in its history at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum.

The show, entitled “Dior: Designers of Dreams,” will open in February 2019 and will explore the flower-loving French couturier’s fascination with Britain and especially the country’s famous gardens. It will also feature his love of suits from Saville Row.

A highlight will be the Dior dress worn by Princess Margaret - the late sister of the current British queen - for her 21st birthday celebration.

Spanning 1947 to the present day, it will be the biggest fashion exhibit at the museum since 2015’s immensely popular “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty.”

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Thomas Adamson can be followed at Twitter.com/ThomasAdamson_K


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