European Fashion Heritage Association

Journal Fashion & History

EFHA Focus: Dress by the Maison Christian Dior, 1967

EFHAEuropean fashionFrench fashion

An unexpected Dior design from the sixties, directly from the Muzealine Mody collection

The so-called “African” Haute Couture collection designed by Yves Saint Laurent and presented in January 1967 is very well know and accomplished. Less known is that in for the same season (spring-summer 1967) the Maison Dior showed a collection inspired by the motifs and themes of the African heritage as well. The collection was designed by Marc Bohan, who succeeded Saint Laurent at the helm of the French Maison and was the main designer from 1960.

Talking about the collection to which the dress belongs to, Alison Adburgham and Phyllis Heathcote, journalists for the English newspaper The Guardian wrote in January 1967:

In Dior’s great salon, tropical Africa mounts the mantelpiece in florists’ jungles of palms and ferns and monkey puzzles. The model girls stalk through on swift safari. Their suits have hipster skirts with curb-chain belts, slung at the side with hunters’ trophies. Jackets are patch-pocketed and belted. Stockings are thick and thornproof, shoes clumpy heeled and laced. (…) As evening shadows fall, the game gets faster, the girls more predatory… prowling in man-hunter pyjamas through the virgin forest, camouflaged by the jungle prints which clothe their limbs with silken movement. But always one shoulder is bared, gleams white and vulnerable. (…) There was drama in the stupendous prints inspired, they say, by Negro art, drama in the totem dresses made of wood paillettes and glinting sequins, and in the sudden revelation that a dress, a simple winging shift dress, was au fond a divided skirt, divided – and therein lay its secret – by a deep inverted pleat which started high, high up from a plastron yoke. There was also surprise. Surprise in the shortness of the skirts. These were 2cm. – no surely 2in. – shorter than in Dior’s last collection whereas the expectation had been on a slight lengthening this spring to prepare for an autumn fall. As things have turned out, they are about 4in. above the knee.(

So, the dress from The Muzealne Mody collection perfectly represents all the features of the Bohan collection. The length is actually no long at all. It has a very bold print on a silk fabric. We can see African masks, the same that once inspired Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Given that the pattern is quite impressive, the designer probably decided to wrap it around the body and cut it only on the right side, to show the beauty of the printed patter in full.

The dress has no boning or internal structures, so its very light and easy to wear. The freedom of movement it allows shows how haute couture in sixties assimilated youth fashion from the streets. But of course in high manufacturing standards, typical of couture.


*This entry was written by Piotr Szaradowski, fashion collector and head of Muzealne Mody