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How Dior’s pre-fall 2024 collection is a tribute to Marlene Dietrich



For a designer who often finds inspiration in remarkable women, it’s surprising that Maria Grazia Chiuri, womenswear creative director at Dior, had yet to explore the enigmatic figure of Marlene Dietrich. The German-born actress made waves in Hollywood and beyond with her androgynous beauty that captured the zeitgeist of the early 20th century. Whether smoking a cigar while wearing a man’s suit or clad in a revealing negligee that was the epitome of feminine elegance, Dietrich is, to this day, one of the most fascinating performers in the history of filmmaking, and a symbol of the golden age of silver screen glamour.

The actress, who was a personal client of the late Christian Dior, was on Chiuri’s mind when she conceived the label’s pre-fall 2024 collection, which the brand just unveiled in New York at a star-studded show held at the Brooklyn Museum on April 15. The event was attended by celebrities such as Rosamund Pike, Anya Taylor-Joy and Haerin from K-pop girl group NewJeans.

Actress Marlene Dietrich in a man’s suit. Photo: SCMP Archives

“By looking at Marlene Dietrich’s wardrobe, I was able to delve into the very tangible reality of one of the first Dior customers,” Chiuri tells Style, adding that she sees Dietrich as “the bridge” between two fashion capitals: Paris, where Dior is based, and New York, where Christian Dior opened a store in 1948, just one year after establishing the maison. He described his trips to the city in a chapter of his autobiography, opening up a dialogue between the two metropolises, as Chiuri sees it.

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Anya Taylor-Joy attends the Dior pre-fall 2024 show at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. Photo: Reuters
A key emblem of this dialogue is the Statue of Liberty, which has come to represent the city of New York to the world and was donated by the French as a gift to the United States in the late 19th century. In the most obvious homage to the twin cities, Chiuri used sketches of that iconic statue, and of its Parisian counterpart, the Eiffel Tower, in garments such as knits, skirts and shirts, and in accessories like the brand’s bestselling Book Tote, Lady Dior and Saddle bags.
A Dior Book Tote with a print of the Eiffel Tower. Photo: Handout
The juxtaposition of feminine silhouettes and menswear tailoring – a reference to both Dietrich’s personal style and the way women dress today as they go about their daily lives – was another key element of the collection. Forties-style lingerie-inspired dresses, and lace-embellished slip dresses made of quilted nylon in the house’s signature cannage motif were delicate counterpoints to menswear fabrics such as tweed.

Those boyish looks paid homage to Dietrich’s much-photographed masculine suits, which created a stir back in the day, but also to Christian Dior’s predilection for the fabric. The designer wrote in his Petite Dictionnaire de la Mode (The Little Dictionary of Fashion), “In the last few years, tweeds have extended their use even for dressy suits. I think they are extremely elegant. To wear them in the country is a ‘must’. At one time, you could only get tweeds in a rather heavy weight, but now you can get them in all weights and qualities and colours.”

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Menswear was one of the key themes at the Dior pre-fall 2024 show held in New York, on April 15. Photo: Reuters

Unlike the label’s more fashion-forward ready-to-wear collections shown in Paris, or its haute couture shows that represent the pinnacle of high fashion, the pre-fall line is meant to provide a wardrobe for real women like Chiuri herself, who sees the range as an opportunity to reflect on the female-friendly aesthetic she’s been building at Dior.

It’s perhaps no coincidence that the collection was unveiled just a few days after the last episode of The New Look aired on AppleTV+. The 10-episode series narrates Christian Dior’s rise amid the struggle of post-war Paris and his groundbreaking first collection that revolutionised fashion in 1947. Christened the “New Look” by then-Harper’s Bazaar editor Carmel Snow, that collection gave women a reason to celebrate again after years of deprivation.

Models walk the runway at the Dior pre-fall 2024 fashion show at the Brooklyn in New York. Photo: AFP

Chiuri’s vision has become a hit with women around the world thanks to her ability to recreate that same dream, while also grounding her creations in reality and catering to women’s real needs. This show was another successful step in that direction that will find plenty of fans in New York, Paris and beyond.

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