HAUTE COUTURE TRANSCENDS A RIGOROUS PROCESS THAT WEANS THROUGH THE ENDLESSLY DELICATE HANDWORK PASSED THROUGH LES PETITES MAINS OF DIOR’S COUTURE ATELIER.
The true magic of the dresses happens behind the seams on the top floor of 30 avenue Montaigne, Dior’s Parisian couture atelier, where an army of artisans dressed in pristine white laboratory coats begin each dress’ journey by sculpting the toile in a mock fabric of cotton calico. As the most critical step in haute couture construction, pattern follows Dior’ legacy to which the house’s Creative Director Raf Simons attests, “Mr. Dior was a supreme architect of pattern, He could construct something perfect, and yet he would often throw in a gesture on purpose to break that perfection”.
Couture patterns as an art follow the design’s inception by first laying out the dress’ proportions against the sketch. The dress takes shape in pinning design lines with ribbons, otherwise known as bolducs, onto the dress form. From there the couturier’s moulage process is the stage at which mock fabric is draped onto the mannequin to set the shape from which a pattern is drafted. Before the scissors even touch the fabric, a mock up or toile is sewn from fine cotton calico to ensure each dress’ fit perfection. At the heart of the house, each Dior couturier holds a precise task within the ranks of the atelier’s hierarchy. Monique, for example is solely responsible for deciding and changing the lines of the dress down to Raf Simon’s two millimetre spanning adjustments.
On site at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival at Promenade de la Coisette, Dior erected an ephemeral couture atelier to which the dresses were shipped from Paris to the Mediterranean coast where they were hand dazzled in artisanal finishing before striking the red carpet.
Natalie Portman stepped out in Cannes in a pale blue and black haute couture strapless dress cloud of tulle, graphic-print silk and meticulous hand embroideries. The dress’ pattern construction first follows the bodice by draping the cotton calico toile from the mannequin torso’s symmetrically pinned bolducs. The pattern of the bodice is drafted into quarters, between which a boning is inserted to give structure to the strapless form. Layers of tulle are cut and trimmed on the mannequin in a slight cascade from the toile of the couture hand basted layers. For the toile, a layer of cotton calico drapes the skirt’s shape and is assembled to the dresses’ boned bodice.
The yellow silk crêpe and chiffon Dior dress was constructed from a classic columnar pattern. The toile is first draped as two pieces. First, the torso bodice is fitted to the mannequin with seam allowance, granting a structure for the boning at the bustier’s peaked corners. From there a layer of calico is draped over the bodice down the length of the column skirt body. The detailing of the dress’ front cut is patterned in an elongated rectangle which runs across the bust and down the seams of the princess lines. The pattern of the train is drafted on the diagonal line of the fabric, which allows for a fluent drape to extend from the centre back seam.
The base pattern for Emma Stone’s silk georgette and mint green cotton lace dress is constructed from a four paneled pattern, which begins with the straight design set across the upper chest. Each panel is set slightly wider than the mannequin’s front princess lines and hand basted using temporary couture diagonal hand stitches. The dress’ fine straps are hand basted from the toile’s centre front to the dropped back, which is extends in the train at the center back seams. The dress’ back curve dips and the shape is cut directly onto the cotton calico toile during the moulage process. Triangular shaped pattern pieces are inserted on either side of the skirt’s lower side seam, allowing for an elaborate flare which follows the train’s classic Dior H-Line silhouette.
Natalie Portman’s red silk crêpe dress is constructed from a curved heart shaped bust line and the hand basted darts grant an exact fit to bodice’s pattern on both the front and back sides of the toile. The couture stitches hold the firm structure of the upper torso. The toile from which the final pattern will be lined and boned provides structure and grants the heart shape bodice support to stand slightly away from the body. The final pattern of the dress’ drape front and back is cut from a single piece of fabric, which falls over the bodice in a narrow and tapered silhouette.
Marion Cotillard’s midnight blue guipure strapless mini dress was sequined and embroidered at the hands of 10 couturiers at the Dior atelier in Cannes. The pattern begins as a strapless classic bodice block which is draped symmetrically, first from cotton calico from the design lines at centre front. Hand basted diagonal stitches keep the pattern pieces in a precise shape which followed the princess seams at both the center front and center back of the dress. An additional pattern is cut was cut to the same dimensions as the assembled torso and skirt bodice as an underpinning to provide additional weight and firmness to the meticulous hand beading, sequins and embroidery that is lain on top of the blue guipure strapless base.