When creating a collection, fashion designers typically mine multiple sources for their inspiration. This inspiration takes visual form on what is usually called a “mood board,” a group of visual references intended to guide the look and feel of a particular collection. These visual cues can be culled from literally anywhere, but often consist of images related to historic personages, places, movies, non-Western cultures and sometimes single words.
Christian Dior by John Galliano
Fall 2004 Ready-to-wear
As this raw silk jacket was created by John Galliano (b.1960), we can be sure that the mood board from which it originated was firmly rooted in a specific place or time period. Galliano, who has been designing both under his own name and for Christian Dior since 1997, is legendary for combining multiple historic and non-Western influences within a single collection. His runway shows are extravagant, a dramatic spectacle which roots the garments in their initial inspiration. To complete the theme, Galliano always takes the requisite end-of-show bow in a flamboyant ensemble directly related to the collection. Referring to the way in which he gathers inspiration, Galliano has said of himself, “I am an adventurer and a pirate.”1
The inspiration for the Christian Dior Fall 2004 ready-to-wear collection was reportedly Vogue covers from the 1900s, paired with the Teddy Boy look of 1950s Britain, in itself a revival of Edwardian-era (1901-1910) styles.2 This particular jacket was paired with a long aqua dress, aqua ankle socks and thick-soled black and white creeper shoes. The exaggerated shawl collar was featured throughout the collection in a variety of colors and fabrications. On the runway, this collar nearly covered the head of the model, creating a cocoon which enfolded the head and altered the line of the shoulders. It framed the neck and face, both enclosing and restricting. You can view the entire collection here.
Throughout his work for Christian Dior, Galliano has demonstrated a particular interest in accentuating the neck. His first collections for Christian Dior featured a variety of choker-style necklaces, some of beads and others of metal coil. The chokers were a reference to Queen Alexandra of Britain (1844-1925), who wore them throughout her life to hide a scar on her neck. Additionally, the chokers made reference to African tribes, specifically the Dinka, who typically wear beaded choker-like necklaces as part of their traditional dress.3
Christian Dior by John Galliano
Emphasizing, shaping and elongating, chokers essentially function as corsets for the neck. Do Galliano’s chokers make sly reference to Christian Dior’s New Look of 1947? This collection, which promoted the corset as essential undergarment for women, is perhaps the most noted fashion collection of the twentieth century. After the austere, military influenced fashions of the World War II era, it reintroduced the corseted silhouette so closely associated with 1950s fashion.
Whether or not Galliano’s interest in the neck is tied directly to the history of Christian Dior, it is fascinating to unpack the mismash of influences present in his work. His playful appropriation of diverse themes makes for compelling and influential fashion. Taken as a whole, Galliano's work demonstrates that the impact of fashion lies largely in its creative interpretation and reinterpretation of time, space and culture.
1 Marshall, Alexandra. "Galliano's Excellent Adventures." New York Times 3 Dec. 2006.: F183.
2 Mower, Sarah. "Rev. of Christian Dior Ready-to-wear." Style.com.3 March 2004
3 Koda, Harold. Extreme Beauty: The Body Transformed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2001.