Dior portrays the spirit of Josephine Baker as the guiding light on the podium

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Forget the pearl-skinned Princess Margaret posing gracefully for Cecil Beaton on her 21st birthday with seven layers of ballroom-scale Dior taffeta surrounding her. This season, Josephine Baker, the anointed princess of Dior, is leading the stage of a smoky jazz club covered in sequins, white fur shawls falling from her shoulders as she sings.

Born in Missouri but spending most of his life in France, Baker spent $250,000 on a haute couture wardrobe, becoming Christian Dior’s muse and one of his best clients. The latest Dior haute couture show, kissing curls and wavy fringes, velvet tailoring and a dazzling homage to crushed silk lamé, brings Baker back to his well-deserved place in Dior history. The show was a counterweight to the heavily fetishized image of an infamous Folies Bergère costume—a string of bananas and little else—that came to define Baker’s image.

“Dior belongs to the center of its history,” said Baker, who was the first black woman to enter the pantheon of eminent figures in French history in 2021 and is known for her work on resistance during World War II. Designer Maria Grazia Chiuri before the show at the Musée Rodin. Chiuri first realized how Baker had been erased from her rightful place in the history and iconography of the house when the designer recreated one of Baker’s original Dior looks – a structured dress and matching gloves, but the fur cape was replaced with tulle to reflect modern sensibilities. – For actor Yara Shahidi, who wanted to “pay tribute to a powerful renegade black American artist” at the 2021 Met Gala in New York.

During her years in Paris, Baker invested heavily in a wardrobe of sculptural, richly embellished gowns and elegantly tailored suits, creating an image she felt reflected her rightful standing as a great lady of culture. She bought it from eminent designers such as Madeleine Vionnet and Pierre Balmain and became a personal friend of Christian Dior, who was photographed in the front row of a Dior catwalk show in 1959 alongside Juliette Greco she. In the 1960s, she wore Dior suits to join the civil rights protests she defended in her homeland of the United States.

American artist Mickalene Thomas’s thirteen giant portraits of groundbreaking African American women, including Eartha Kitt and Nina Simone, have been placed on the grounds of the Musée Rodin in Paris and underline the message of representational correction. Reshaping the art of Ingres and Manet by including his paintings and collages, black female bodies in painting, Thomas believes that the fashion industry’s visibility means that the fashion industry is an important space for addressing established beauty hierarchies. Thomas described the Dior collaboration as “a conversation about the importance of black female role models.”

But since this was a high-profile Paris runway show, there was another layer of message on the runway: What will be in fashion next season? Roaring silk fringe dresses of the 20s, slippery hooded cocktail gowns, open-toe velvet dance sandals, gel wavy hair and kissable curls look ready for the fashion pantheon.

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