Mother's Drag Homework series points lovers of Drag toward seminal references, creators, icons, works of art, entertainment, and historical moments that define the Drag we appreciate today. Drag is a highly referential commentary on style and cultural touch-points, in case you didn't know that's what you are doing. Mother is here to share the knowledge so you can be a better Queen and you can recognize when a sister nails a particular reference and give her a hearty "Werk, Queen!" Get out your notebooks!
Today's homework is a treat for fashion lovers. From 1996 until his ouster in 2011 following a drunken anti-semitic tirade, British Designer John Galliano, designing for the venerable Maison (House of) Christian Dior, staged the most beautiful, outrageous, dramatic, poetic, ridiculous, excessive, and utterly mind-blowing fashion shows the world has ever seen. They were Drag shows at the very highest level, y'all.
Shalom Harlow in Christian Dior Haute Couture, S/S 2007, was the inspiration for Kim Chi's RDR Season 8 Finale origami gown.
Truly nothing before or since, with the possible exception of Galliano's shows for his own label, has approached the theatrical magnificence and visual spectacle Galliano and his legendary collaborators created for Dior Haute Couture. Traditionally, Haute Couture shows had been rather stuffy affairs, often held in designer showrooms with sedate models and minimal staging. Galliano amped up the theatrical presentation to 11, matching the insane creativity of the pieces he sent down the runway. Models didn't just navigate a stark barren catwalk. The tallest and thinnest supermodels of the world preened, posed, and sashayed amid lavish sets and glossy brand emblems, in exaggerated makeup by Pat McGrath, otherworldly hairstyles by Julien D'Ys, and outrageous headwear by Stephen Jones.
The clothes are works of art, undisputedly the most elaborate couture creations of the time, requiring teams of seamstresses, tailors, embroiderers, milliners, and other craftspeople to realize. The true meaning of Haute Couture, a term that has been debased and misused liberally, is not just 'expensive fashion,' but rather the artful creation of custom fashion designs, hand made with the highest quality of materials and craftsmanship by a fashion house with its associated ateliers or 'studios,' each of which specializes in a particular handcraft - beading, feathers, silk flowers, pleating, leather, dyeing, weaving, embroidery, etc. The clothes are outrageously expensive, costing tens to hundreds of thousands, but are available only made-to-measure for each client. Haute Couture collections are shown only twice per year - Spring/Summer (S/S) and Autumn Winter (A/W) - with a few of the bigger houses opting for a Resort Collection shown in the Spring. Haute Couture can only be made in France by fashion houses licensed to use the appellation controlée or 'controlled name.' Anything else you may see using the term is not the tea, ok?
John Galliano gives a brief tour of some of his favorite pieces designed and executed for Dior Haute Couture.
During the height of Galliano's excesses, it was not uncommon for audience members - elite fashion editors, globally famous entertainers, and wealthy socialites - to LITERALLY faint during the shows, overcome by the beauty and sensory overstimulation of the spectacle. Fortunately, the shows were all filmed, and fashion savvy Queens and designers continue to scour these archives for ideas and imagery. And now, you can too!
Here are a few examples of Galliano's Haute Couture Shows for Maison Dior. Your Homework: See how many references you can spot that have subsequently been adapted by high profile queens including RuPaul, Kim Chi, Trinity the Tuck, and Aquaria.
Some of these videos are quite long. If you appreciate a dramatic frock, and a lewk well and truly turned, and really, what Queen doesn't, it will be easy to get lost in the fabulous fashion fantasy world of John Galliano for Maison Dior.
Galliano's first Haute Couture showing for Dior, S/S 1997, borrowed heavily from silhouettes and design perfected for his own eponymous label.
A/W 1997 continued to explore historical themes, ornate costume, and the Dior archive.
The 1998 Dior Haute Couture F/W showing at the Paris Opera garnered high praise and cemented Galiano's reputation with the Maison.
A/W 2000 saw the emergence of many influential looks, including at 6:23 the original beaded geometric patterned dress that has inspired Drag staple pre-sequined fabrics.
S/S 2003 took an avant garde turn, completely upending historical and archival references with voluminous shapes and Japanese Kabuki theatre influence that would carry through the next few seasons.
The incredible S/S 2004 Egyptian inspired collection was almost completely unwearable (and un-walkable) for anyone except Drag Queens.
A/W 2005-6 saw the return of historical shapes and recognizable design DNA from the Dior archives, but dramatically deconstructed to reveal the extensive construction detail and underpinnings always present but usually unseen in finished Haute Couture garments.
Hold on to your wig for this one! For A/W 2006-7 Galliano served a full on Knights in Armor fantasy. In Mother's opinion, this is one of the most epic fashion shows of all time.
Mr. Galiano was on a roll, following up the stellar A/W '06-7 Medieval collection with the insanely beautiful S/S 2007 Madame Butterfly collection, reimagining classic silhouettes from the Dior archives with heavily stylized Japanese design details.
A/W 2008-9 gave us the classic shapes of the Dior Archive rendered in high Drag style - literally. Check the blocked brows and beat mugs on the models.
S/S 2011, one of Galliano's last Haute Couture collections for Dior, is heavy with 1950's New Look nostalgia, defined by the strokes and shading of vintage fashion illustrations - a mature collection of clothes that are mostly wearable.
If you're a fan of inside tea, garment construction, and handsome tailors, settle in for a satisfying journey. This documentary takes you into the ateliers to track the realization of one spectacular redingote (coat) from the S/S 2011 collection.