Miniature use in couture is not something new. Ever since people started coveting other people’s clothes and style and wanting to emulate them, the use of miniature replicas of outfits has been essential in communicating fashion changes and styles to people far from the original clothes makers or style setters. Miniatures of real outfits were making the rounds among royal courts in Europe and abroad, so that people could copy the latest styles worn by royal families, who were the original fashion influencers in centuries past. Later, fashion makers such as Worth, would make miniature outfits from their collections to showcase them to clients abroad. There were no photographs back then! And of course, the most characteristic example would be the Théâtre de la Mode, a traveling exhibit featuring miniature, doll-like mannequins wearing French designers' latest creations, showcasing them to people after WWII.
Dior has used miniature couture in the past as well. They have made spectacular exhibitions with them in China, placed them in boutique windows or used them as part of the Dior latest series of exhibitions in the world’s big museums. They even use them sometimes in the ateliers. And with the world in a crisis from the pandemic everywhere, the line was drawn from the Théâtre de la Mode to this year’s presentation: not a runway show, but a film (shown above) showing the miniatures and their real-life counterparts in a mythical setting and story.
The collection was inspired in large part from five women Surrealist artists: Lee Miller, Dorothea Tanning, Leonora Carrington, Dora Maar and Jacqueline Lamba. Maria-Grazia Chiuri, Creative Director of Dior women’s collections, chose to produce thirty-seven miniature haute couture silhouettes, embodying the quintessence of the excellence in the Dior Ateliers. An audacious feat for the petites mains (the atelier workers) who, once again, rose to this virtuoso challenge through a demanding, infinitely meticulous dialogue with savoir-faire.
Working on a small scale offers the opportunity for Dior’s crafts people to re-embrace and elaborate on precious techniques – such as embroidery and hand-pleating to the nearest millimetre – but also to transpose, on mannequins measuring precisely fifty-five centimetres high (1/3 scale for those wondering), the essentials of tailoring: from white toile (which is the first draft in 3d) to the sumptuousness of draping; from buttoning to the precision of linings; from cut-outs to the rich diversity of fabrics; to miniature labels bearing the Dior logo. Six looks have also been created in life-size versions, based on scale models. I can understand not making more as there was no actual show and getting clients to see the outfits up close (which is what they do in Couture runways and afterwards, in the salon), order and have it made sur-mesure (custom made) sounds quite daunting in the covid-19 world.
Lucky us then that get to experience the creation and display of these miniatures, even only in film. Italian filmmaker Matteo Garrone has created an almost perfect fantasy (casting director I’m looking at you for only casting caucasian models) so we can covet those miniatures for our doll collections. Below is a slideshow with more photos of the miniatures and their incredible details.