Dior looks back to its postwar prime as label moves on from Galliano scandal

Catwalk show styles recall 40s and 50s – with skirt lengths demure and longer, flaring out gently and falling below the knee

Parisian fashion for next autumn will have much in common with styles from the late 40s and early 50s on the evidence of Friday's Dior show.

Bill Gaytten, the man charged with steering the Dior ship into calmer waters after the John Galliano scandal, showed a collection which took the classic shapes of the brand's heyday as its starting point. "I wanted to take classic Dior, clean it up and strip it back," he said before the Musée Rodin show. "A more minimal approach makes the look more contemporary."

On the catwalk this translated into dresses with less decoration and sleeveless evening gowns with plain, round necklines, with skirts that sprang out in full from the waist.

Elsewhere, gently pleated silk skirts worn with wrapped knits recalled ballet dancers. The colour palette was muted in tones of grey, rose and plum. The shoes resembled high-heeled block ballet pumps.

Skirt lengths were demure and longer, flaring out gently and falling to below the knee – a shape which after several seasons of threatening to invade women's wardrobes now seems to have won the case on grounds of both wearability and fashion kudos.

The shape has been seen on every major catwalk in all four fashion cities over the past month and looks set to stay the course.

Gaytten admitted that this was a shape which sold particularly well in Europe but less so in the US.

For Dior, the focus on the classic era of the brand is logical. It produces clothes that look elegant and unmistakably Dior – to the point that they are almost lightened up modern remakes.

This may be a little dull for those looking for clothes with more edge but for Dior-philes seeking uncontentious, charming clothes, this softer updated version of the house's legendary era is perfect.

The strategy seems to be working commercially. Since the Galliano crisis last year, Dior has seen its operating profits double to €85m (£71m) and the brand's management has been keen to note strong sales at full-price of the collections designed under Gaytten's direction.

Oldham-born Gaytten was careful not to be drawn on the link, if any, between him and rising sales.

He said: "They were rising anyway, but people comment more on them because of the crisis."

Despite much conjecture during Milan fashion week, no word as to who might eventually take over at Dior has been forthcoming.

Last week's rumours focused on the much lauded designer Raf Simons, who presented his final show for the Jil Sander brand. But for now, the rumour mill has ceased turning and Gaytten remains in charge.

Dior was not the only label with the 40s fashion template on its mind. Earlier in the day, Roland Mouret mused in his show notes that he had been reflecting on the Parisian winter of 1947 and the contradiction between the "haute couture attitude" and the more prosaic need to keep warm. His collection focused on folding and wrapping.

His smartest idea was a slim sleeved skirt suit which from the front had the classic 40s silhouette with shades of the New Look about it.

But from behind it became obvious that the gentle A-line skirt was wrapped around a pencil skirt.


Imogen Fox in Paris

The GuardianTramp

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