Each year, Fashion Museum Bath invites a key figure from the industry to choose a Dress of the Year, a garment that captures and expresses the essence of its time. In 2014, Susie Bubble chose a sugar pink silk organza dress from Christopher Kane’s Spring/Summer 2013 collection; last year’s stylist Katie Grand decided upon outfits by Loewe Creative Director JW Anderson.
This year, the ‘dress’, is less a dress, more an outfit: Dior’s white cotton ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ print T-shirt, worn with black wool jacket and black tulle skirt, from the label’s SS2017 collection, the first by Maria Grazia Chiuri as Creative Director.
The T-shirt has been worn by a host of celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence, Rihanna, Natalie Portman and Demi Lovato.
Selected by Hearst Lifestyle Group Editorial Director Sarah Bailey, this is only the second time a t-shirt has won the award, the first being Katharine Hamnett’s STOP KILLING WHALES t-shirt in 1984, part of an ensemble that included BodyMap and Betty Jackson, picked by Brenda Polan, The Guardian.
This year’s selection highlights the renewed power of the political t-shirt in pressing times as well as the continuing impact of affordable street fashion on luxury brands.
“I was very inspired by the appointment of Maria Grazia Chiuri at Christian Dior,” says Bailey. “She is the first female Creative Director in the history of the house and I admired the vigour with which she immediately started challenging the conversation around women, creativity and the gendering of genius.
“Her social media campaign (before we even saw any of her designs) #TheWomenBehindMyDress – hero-ing the petits mains in the Dior atelier – was brilliant, moving and completely on point.”
She remembers the first time she saws Chiuri’s collection. “It was – again – utterly uncompromising in its message. I loved the resolute strength of the models in their logo T-shirts emblazoned with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s call to arms ‘We Should All Be Feminists’.”
“I am very honoured that [Sarah Bailey] chose Dior for the Fashion Museum,” commented Maria Grazia Chiuri. “My first collection is a synthesis of what Dior once was and what it is today. It’s a starting point: to communicate with today’s woman and to imagine the woman of tomorrow.
“I wanted to send a message to young women who consider Dior a symbol of femininity: this is their Dior, created with them, their energy and their desire to conquer the world, in mind.”
“I think a T-shirt, because it is so basic, is the easiest way to display your ideas. The slogan ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ takes over this blank space and plays with the political value of appearances. I’m glad that so many women saw my T-shirt as a way to claim their own position, their own role in society, to make their voice heard through this item of clothing. It’s quite an awakening also for fashion, and for what you can do with fashion. For me, the white T-shirt was a simple, direct and immediate means to say something loud and clear.”
“When I was asked to make the selection for the museum, I was not only recognising the beauty and relevance of Maria Grazia Chiuri’s collection,” adds Bailey.
“When I looked at 2017 through the prism of history, society and politics, the Washington Women’s March of January 21, 2017 was front and centre in my mind.
“Whether protesting against the misogyny of Trump or speaking out about the predatory practises of Hollywood casting couch in the unfolding Weinstein scandal, 2017 was a year when women felt the necessity and obligation to stand up and be counted. Maria Grazia Chiuri’s collection distilled the moment – both right for its time and a statement that helps us define the time. A new look indeed.”
The Dress of the Year 2017 will be on display at the Fashion Museum from 1 December 2017 to 1 January 2019. It will be the 100th object in the Museum’s A History of Fashion in 100 Objects exhibition. www.fashionmuseum.co.uk