In December 1946, amid a post-war Parisian society that was still rationing, Christian Dior opened his studio in a four-storey hotel private at 30 Avenue Montaigne. A few months later, on a cold February morning, the designer presented his first haute couture collection in the Trianon Louis XVI-style gray salons of the mansion to an audience of buyers and fashion editors. “In 1947, after so many years of wandering,” Dior writes in his 1956 autobiography, “couture was [to] painters and poets, and wanted to return to his true function, dressing women and enhancing their beauty.” The clothes he designed, as he puts it, were “for flowery women, with rounded shoulders, full feminine busts and waists that stretch out the hands.” Of the silhouettes in his debut line Corolle (named after the botanical term for petals), one in particular stood out: the Bar Jacket. Made of cream silk Shantung, the veste was sculpted to fit snugly above a narrow waist, before flowing into a scalloped basque, which was carefully padded, reinforced and weighted to accentuate the hipline. Paired with a very wide skirt, it was dubbed the New Look by the press – and sparked a sartorial revolution.
The now iconic Bar Jacket has since been reinterpreted by all of Dior’s creative directors, most recently Maria Grazia Chiuri, who in 2016 became the first woman to head the house. Since then, she’s softened the jacket’s original silhouette by reworking the lining and redesigned it in prints ranging from camouflage to leopard jacquard. In 2019, she even commissioned American artist Mickalene Thomas and British designer Grace Wales Bonner to redesign the jacket, with iterations woven in embroidered textile patchwork and black wool with macramé, respectively. Last year, an exploration of Aristeidis Tzonevrakis, a Greek tailor from Argos who specializes in ancient handicraft techniques, inspired the brand’s latest tribute to the garment. Tzonevrakis’ version, which (even if not strictly a bar) nods to the original, is a white double-sided wool coat embellished with terzidiko, a traditional Greek twisted cord embroidery consisting of ribbons and braids. For the sleeves and pockets, he looked at the intricate stitching of ceremonial fustanella costumes; the buttonholes are inspired by cardigans worn on the Greek islands. “Since my very first collection,” says Chiuri, “I have viewed the Bar Jacket with the utmost respect, as well as something that can be constantly updated.” Monsieur Dior himself would no doubt approve.
Photo assistant: Timothy Mulcare