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A shimmering fashion night in Dubai

A model wears a creation for the Dior Spring/Summer 2019 Haute Couture fashion collection presented in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on March 18. (AP)

Dior shows its haute couture to Mideast fashionistas

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, March 19, (AP): Under a large circus-style tent, Dior showcased its latest haute couture collection to a crowd of Mideast-based fashionistas, social media figures, celebrities, buyers, designers and editors Monday night.

It was the first show in Dubai for the French fashion house, which initially presented its spring-summer 2019 haute couture collection in Paris in January.

The presentation in Dubai, however, also included 15 entirely new creations unveiled especially for the show’s design conscious Arab Gulf-based audience.

Dubai’s exuberant displays of luxury and the city’s surreal, futuristic-looking skyline were the ideal backdrop to the show, where creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri was on hand.

The emirate of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where Bugattis and billionaires are a common sight, has a reputation for glamour and over-the-top projects like man-made palm shaped islands, the world’s tallest tower and a seemingly endless pipeline of new five-star hotels and spas.

The well-heeled Dubai crowd was wowed as models in sequined helmets presented the pieces inspired by Chiuri’s memory and imagination associated with the circus. Dior has a history with the big top, with the circus theme first appearing in a 1955 styled photo and reappearing under John Galliano’s creative direction.

The haute couture collection included details like a “tattooed” body suit that conjured up images of Victorian-era circus performers and a tulle jumpsuit of multi-colored streaks in satin bands and dramatically square shoulders.

Haute couture is an artisan-based method of making clothes that dates back over 150 years. The highly expensive garments, shown in collections in Paris twice a year, are bought by a core group of no more than a few hundred rich women around the world.

The exclusive pieces at the invitation-only show, which took place in a public park, reflected in many ways Dubai’s own ambitions to become a global fashion and design hub.

Minna Joseph, who attended the show in a tulle skirt of her own creation, said it was amazing to witness the collection.

“I mean this is the park that I grew up in, I bring my kids in. And having something symbolic as Dior come, it’s monumental for Dubai, for all of us, for the fashion community,” she said.

Dedicated

A more than $1 billion project called the Dubai Design District, or D3, was launched in recent years with offices dedicated to the fashion industry. The district’s modern architecture and modish cafes cater to fashion editors of magazines like Vogue Arabia, emerging designers and local artists who can afford the steeply priced office space.

Despite Dubai’s creative push, the emirate does not have a major fashion week. In a first in 2015, Chanel held a show in Dubai to unveil a cruise collection by Karl Lagerfeld.

Still, Dubai is a major shopping destination, drawing tens of millions of visitors from around the world to its more than 40 malls each year. The retail and wholesale sector is the biggest single contributor to Dubai’s economy, according to the Oxford Business Group.

“Today Dior is in Dubai. This is the biggest example that the UAE is making a place for itself on the fashion map,” Lebanese TV personality Annabella Hilal said.

Also:

BOSTON: When actor Billy Porter unveiled his combination tuxedo-ball gown at the Oscars last month, it got people talking.

Porter, the black and gay breakout star of the FX series “Pose”, had bucked traditional Academy Award attire – fancy frocks for the ladies and basic tuxedos for men.

A photo of Porter’s eye-catching Oscar garb is included in a new exhibit at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts that opens to the public on Thursday. The exhibit titled, “Gender Bending Fashion”, examines moments in history when clothing transcended and muddled our understanding of gender.

The show was inspired, in part, by what’s happening right now in fashion, said Michelle Finamore, a fashion historian and curator.

“The lines are getting more and more blurred,” she said.

“Gender Bending Fashion” is the first large-scale exhibit of its kind to be hosted by a major museum. It is comprised of mixed-media: paintings, record covers and photographs. But a highlight for viewers will surely be the 70 gender-bending ensembles from big-name designers, such as Rei Kawakubo, of Comme des Garçons, and Walter Van Beirendonck, a member of the influential avant-garde group “Antwerp Six”.

One notable inclusion is the tuxedo that actress Marlene Dietrich wore in the 1930 film “Morocco”.

Dietrich has long been hailed as a hero for gender fluidity. It wasn’t uncommon for her to wear top hats, shirts with French cuffs and cuff links, and pant suits tailored for men. “She was both sides of the binary in that she was either extremely feminine or extremely masculine,” Finamore said.

The exhibit references the 1920s, a time when women first cut their hair short. Then it progresses to the 1960s and The Peacock Revolution, when menswear shifted from plain and simple to flamboyant, colorful and tailored to the body. The ‘60s is also when unisex attire became mainstream. And present day is thought to be the height of gender fluidity in fashion.

Each of these moments represent a cultural shift within society, said Jo Paloetti, author of the books “Sex and Unisex: Fashion, Feminism, and the Sexual Revolution” and “Pink and Blue: Telling the Boys from the Girls in America”.

In the 1920s, women secured the right to vote and started working outside the home for the first time. The 1960s brought the sexual revolution, gay rights and second-wave feminism – people pushing back against traditional roles.

Today, as the world questions the very relevance of gender definitions, cultural questions are taking visual form in fashion, Paloetti said.

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