For Fall/Winter 2021, Dior's creative director takes us inside Chateau de Versailles for her gothic reinterpretation of classic fables

Dancers move together under the dark sky, bodies contorting and undulating in a haunting choreography. Clouds shift over the sun, bearing down on the misty clearing where they dance in a circle, as if possessed by—or worshipping—some unseen force. The tension builds as they dance through a historical palace, moving through its darkened interiors in perfect unison; pillars of sunlight slant in through glass windows to reveal cavernous rooms, with all the old world detail one would expect of Chateau de Versailles.

Opening with this cinematic sequence, Dior’s Fall/Winter 2021 film presentation is infused with an aura of suspense and mystery. Inspired by the fairytales of Jean Cocteau, Madame d’Aulnoy and Madame Leprince de Beaumont, “Disturbing Beauty” examines the archetypes at the core of these classical narratives. Utilizing familiar elements like dark veils, hooded capes, and cardinal red, creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri references and reinterprets these stylistic tropes, tempering fantasy with a sense of foreboding. In the palace, mirrors are obscured and thorns cover the wall; chandeliers glisten in the muted light, and models walk through the empty hall, eyes rimmed in dark eyeliner.

It’s not the first of Chiuri’s collections to draw on symbolic archetypes: the house’s Spring/Summer 2021 Haute Couture presentation delved into the rich visual iconography of Tarot, reinterpreting its characters in ornate detail. This season, themes from fairytales and folklore are channeled into easily wearable pieces, many of which would be as at home on a city street as a runway. Headscarves and hoods dominate the collection, which includes numerous flowing plisse gowns and diaphanous skirts. Schoolgirl-style dresses and peter pan collars seem to embody a childlike innocence, while the color and material—black leather—suggest an inversion of it. Elsewhere in the collection, military jackets lend a masculine edge, practical cuts co-mingling with fairytale-inspired prints. Subtle nods to popular fables are embedded throughout the collection, whether in the form of rose and apple motifs or red pumps with thorny straps. With this collection, Chiuri creates a macabre alternative to traditional mythology, reviving and revitalizing its archetypes with a macabre twist.

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