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Oscars 2024 Fashion Highlights

Oscars 2024 Fashion Highlights

Oscars 2024 Fashion Highlights Two Replicas Stole the Show on the Red Carpet Website Title

The Academy Awards have just taken place in LA and I have to say the fashion at this year’s Oscars was a bit underwhelming. Where were the glamorous gowns, the people who dare to wear something amazing? But maybe it is a reflection of our times that celebrities opt for more toned-down looks. Nevertheless, toned down does not necessarily have to mean boring. But this is a different story. Nevertheless, there a few highlights which stole the show. At this year’s red carpet two replicas of dresses from the late 1940s and the early 1950s caught the internet by storm: Anya Taylor Joy’s Dior look and Carey Mulligan’s Cristóbal Balenciaga reinterpretation.

You can also watch my video here:

Anya Taylor Joy in a Contemporary Version of the Vénus Dress (1949)

Oscars 2024 Fashion Highlights Anya Taylor Joy Dior Venus Dress
Anya Taylor Joy in a new interpretation of Dior’s “Vénus”-dress from 1949; Picture Source: Instagram Dior.

Anya Taylor Joy in Dior immediately broke the internet. Firstly, because it was an Oscar-worthy dress which looked stunning. Seconldy, because it is a replica of a dress by Christian Dior himself from 1949. The comments on social media went wild about what everyone thought was yet another interpretation of the “Junon” dress” which was seen on Natalie Portman at the Cannes Film Festival in 2023. But it was not. This is the thing with the internet, there is often a lack of research or of fact-checking and once information is published, it seems that it is re-shared without being questioned.

Anya Taylor Joy wore a new interpretation of the “Vénus” dress from the same collection. But let’s also quickly look at the background of this Junon dress, as it is important to understand the contemporary interpretation of its sister dress. 

Oscars 2024 Fashion Highlights Natalie Portman Dior Junon Dress Cannes Film Festival
Natalie Portman in a replica of the Junon dress at the Cannes Film Festival in 2023; Picture Source: Instagram Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman wore a replica of Christian Dior’s dress from the Fall/Winter 1949 collection. At first sight, it was not clear whether she wore the original or a replica. It was the latter – due to the age and delicate state of the original gown, it can only be kept in a museum or conservational setting as it would otherwise result in damage of the dress (such as the loss of the embellishment or the fabric). I guess many were relieved that a similar drama like the one around an original Marilyn Monroe dress at the Met Gala 2022 had been avoided. Kim Kardashian wore the original of Monroe’s iconic dress. (It is still not understandable how a museum could agree to handing over a historical artefact which should stay in a setting where it is protected. And let’s not even get into the fact that the dress did not fit Kardashian’s body at all and was damaged when she put it on.)

Background of the Junon and the Vénus

Oscars 2024 Fashion Highlights Dior Junon Dress Venus Dress
Junon dress (left) and Vénus dress from the Milieu du Siècle collection from 1949; Picture Source: Galerie Dior.

Dior’s collection for Fall/Winter 1949 was titled “Milieu du Siècle” (mid-century) where, in addition to daywear, he presented two gowns – the “Junon” and “Vénus”. We could say the two dresses represented two things: On the one hand, the beauty and “resurrection” of fashion, and haute couture especially, after the German occupation in France and the Second World War. On the other, they illustrate the changes in the female beauty ideal at the time. Let’s not forget, with his first collection for his own house in 1947, Dior created the “New Look” with more feminine shapes which was diametrically opposed to the narrower cuts of the Roaring Twenties and 1930s. The Junon and the Vénus represent this new fashion style. 

The Junon is the more famous one of the two sister dresses with its distinctive skirt made of embellished, cascading petals in cream and blue tones. The base material is silk net and the gown seemed as if it was floating. This was exactly what Christian Dior wanted to achieve with this design. The research for this article could not determine how many of the two dresses still exist, but the Metropolitan Museum has one of each in their collection.[1]

The name refers to the Roman goddess Juno who represents marriage and love. Juno is named Hera in Greek mythology and her attribute is the peacock. An attribute in the arts is an object, or in this case an animal identifying a person, a Saint or figure from mythology. The peacock is Hera’s attribute because of the following story: She was the consort of Zeus who had a lot of mistresses. One of them was Io who he turned into a cow to hide her from Hera. Needless to say, Hera found out about the affair and had the giant Argos with his 100 eyes watch Io and commemorated his 100 eyes in the peacock’s feathers. The peacock in Greek and Roman mythology stands for renewal, spring but also aristocracy and nobility – also along the lines of Venus, or Aphrodite, as she was called in Greek mythology. Even though its eyes are missing, the peacock is represented in the petals of the Junon dress.[2]

Reinterpretations of the Junon

Oscars 2024 Fashion Highlights Junon John Galliano 2010
Reinterpretation of the Junon by John Galliano 2010; Picture Source: Galerie Dior

The Junon dress was reinterpreted later by the Maison Dior; for example by John Galliano in 2010 with a blush top and grey skirt which was similarly embellished but in the same colour tone as the fabric. The top had a big bow which was embroidered in the same way as the bustier top. Galliano said that a trip to the Metropolitan Museum in New York had inspired him for the Spring 2010 collection, as he discovered dresses by Charles James. “I was reading that, actually, it was Charles James who influenced Monsieur Dior to come up with the New Look,” Galliano said.[3]

Oscars 2024 Fashion Highlights New Junon Maria Grazia Chiuri 2017
Sketch by Maria Grazia Chiuri for her “New Junon”; Picture Source: Galerie Dior

When Maria Grazia Chiuri joined the Maison as creative director, she designed an interpretation of the Junon dress for her first haute couture collection in 2017 which she called “New Junon”. In this collection, the New Junon was one of quite a few designs referencing archival designs. Chiuri’s interpretation was a pleated tulle gown in pastel shades – the cascading petal skirt directly referenced the original but it did not have the opulent embroidery as the original. Furthermore, the top part was different, it was draped and it featured a big tulle collar. If we wanted to take it a bit further, we could say that there was another look in the same collection (Look 33) which was a reduced version of the Junon with cascaded lace petals. But maybe this is too much of an interpretation.[4]

A closer look reveals that Portman’s dress differed from the original: the embellishment was less, the top part was cut different. There was more of a separation between the top and the skirt part of this modern interpretation than at the original. The original was much more intricate and, even though it is difficult to tell today and only based on pictures, we can assume that the original probably “floated” more than this 2023-version.

Oscars 2024 Fashion Highlights Junon Zuhair Murad 2009
Miley Cyrus in Zuhair Murad; Picture Source: Pinterest

Portman was not the first to wear an interpretation of the Junon dress. Miley Cyrus wore one to the 2009 Academy Awards – and the interesting fact here is that this design was not by Dior but by Libanese designer Zuhair Murad. Murad added a broader belt with two shells at the front. The shells were added as it was part of his 2009 Spring Summer Haute Couture collection which featured an ocean theme. (Maybe he saw shells in the skirt rather than peacock feathers?) Furthermore, the top was different. The detailing of the embellishment was also different – less – than on the original.[5]

The Vénus

Oscars 2024 Fashion Highlights Dior Venus Dress 1949
Vénus dress, Christian Dior, 1949; Picture Source: Galerie Dior

While the Junon is more famous, the Vénus is no less beautiful. It is also named after a Roman Goddess who also stands for love, but more along the lines of fertility and desire. The Vénus features similar petals as the Junon, but they are only in the back, the front is a tulle part. The Junon seems to be a bit more playful, while the Vénus feels a bit more mature. (This is interesting, because would we not rather associate playfulness with Venus and maturity with Juno?)[6]

The Metropolitan Museum describes the skirt of the Junon as “peacock feathers without their ‘eyes’”,[7] while it describes the skirt of the Vénus as follows: the net part represents spume and the “petals” are “shell-shaped scallops”[8] which is more accurate in describing the goddess Venus than the peacock: When we think of the arts, Venus is often depicted with shells or pearls as attributes.[9]

Oscars 2024 Fashion Highlights Anya Taylor Joy Dior Venus Dress Details
A closer look reveals the “feather”-embellishment referencing the Vénus dress; Picture Source: Galerie Dior

For the untrained eye, it was easy to think that Anya Taylor Joy’s dress was another interpretation of the Junon – most likely because of the full cascaded petal-skirt. (It is not clear why the Maison opted for a full skirt for this reinterpretation but maybe they did not want to create a replica which was too literal.) However, when you zoom in on the dress, you can see embellishments which look like feathers just like on the original Vénus.

Unlike the original, there is no band separating the top part from the skirt – this is something that I would criticize as the original despite the band seems to be flowing better between the top and the skirt. In this contemporary version, the petals seem to be coming out of nowhere. The slimmer silhouette and bustier embellishments are beautiful.

Carey Mulligan in Custom Balenciaga

Recently, Balenciaga has probably been more associated with strange designs like Kim Kardashian’s tape look, the “Trash Bag” for almost USD 2,000 and some questionable marketing campaigns where the brand refused to take over responsibility. But we have to give credit where it is due and the dress for Carey Mulligan was one of the few designs which stood out during this underwhelming Oscar red carpet.

Oscars 2024 Fashion Highlights Carey Mulligan Balenciaga
Carey Mulligan in Balenciaga referencing Cristóbal Balenciaga’s flamenco-designs; Picture Source: Instagram Andrew Mukamal

Carey Mulligan was nominated for her role as Felicia Montealegre, Leonard Bernstein’s wife, in “Maestro”. This elegant Balenciaga dress is a nod to Montealegre who was very passionate about fashion and used to attend her husband’s concerts in fashionable designer outfits. Some say she tried to use fashion to draw people’s interest to classical music. The movie’s costume designer Mark Bridges recreated parts of Montealegre’s wardrobe such as Chanel tweed jackets or a signature blue dress which she wore at Leonard Bernstein’s Mass performance.[10]

Furthermore, the date of the dress is a hint to Montealegre: the Balenciaga dress which inspired the contemporary interpretation was from his 1951 collection – the same year as Montealegre’s and Bernstein’s wedding.[11]

Mulligan is a fan of vintage interpretations: At this year’s BAFTA awards she wore a custom Dior haute couture gown which was inspired by the “Autriche” gown created in – which year? You may have guessed it – 1951. Furthermore, at the Golden Globes, she wore custom Schiaparelli which referenced a dress from the Fall 1949/50 collection. According to Mulligan, her stylist Andrew Mukamal (who is also Margot Robbie’s stylist as I mentioned in my article about the Barbie Movie press tour) approached Balenciaga with the idea of the dress and it is said that it was the first time that the house recreated an archival look for a red carpet event.[12]

The black dress featured a mermaid skirt flaring out just under the knees and ending in a scalloped hem. Underneath there was a white tulle petticoat. While it has not been officially confirmed by the brand at the time of publishing this article, it is likely that it was based on a flamenco-inspired evening gown from 1951 which was shorter, with a detail in front and tiered pink taffeta underneath. Balenciaga created it under his namesake label and similar to the Dior dresses, the Costume Institute of the Met has one of these evening dresses, which was referred to as “Flamenco Dress” by vintage expert Shrimpton Couture in their collection.[13]

This dress shows the roots of Cristobal Balenciaga – whose Maison was established in Paris but he was Spanish. It is a reference of the flamenco dancer’s dresses and their signature shape and Spanish drama. The wide skirt with taffeta allowed the gown to swing like a dancer’s gown.[14] 

Oscars 2024 Fashion Highlights Cristobal Balenciaga Flamenco
Flamenco-inspired ensemble by Cristóbal Balenciaga, 1951; Picture Source: Philadelphia Museum of Art

There are multiple examples for Cristóbal’s interpretations of flamenco dresses throughout his career. An interesting, and even more dramatic ensemble is from his Spring 1951 collection: A dress with overdress and petticoat (and a bustle underneath to give shape) which also reminded me a bit of Mulligan’s interpretation. The Philadelphia Museum of Art owns this ensemble and according to the museum, it was purchased for a special showing at the Philadelphian department store Wanamaker’s and illustrates the extravagant romanticism of fashion at the time.[15]

I appreciated to see this rather positive dimension of Balenciaga in the media again. Cristóbal Balenciaga was an incredibly talented designer and innovator of his time and it is a shame that the brand has followed a strategy focused on online hype and outrage rather than beautiful and innovative designs. Moreover, the Oscar dress also shows that creative director Demna Gvasalia can achieve much more than designing sneakers or Trash Bags.

One last note: Cherie Balch, who I mentioned before, said that she would appreciate if the labels and stylists more transparent when it comes to replicas. I totally agree. It feels like it may even be a marketing strategy of the brands to create an online buzz and let people think that a certain design is an original to later release a statement that it was a replica. But as mentioned in the introduction: Hence, they should not be taken out from a museum or conservation environment to be worn on the red carpet. (I do not even want to get into the crime of adjusting or altering such dresses) There is no shame in saying it is a replica or reinterpretation of an original. It shows that a brand knows their legacy and can take it to the future.


Footnotes

[1] Galerie Dior 2024, Metropolitan Museum New York 2024a and 2024b.

[2] ibid.

[3] Galerie Dior 2024, Vogue 2024a.

[4] Galerie Dior 2024, Vogue 2024b.

[5] Fashion Channel 2024.

[6] Metropolitan Museum New York 2024b.

[7] Metropolitan Museum New York 2024a.

[8] Metropolitan Museum New York 2024b.

[9] Metropolitan Museum New York 2024a and 2024b.

[10] Daily Mail 2024, Women’s Wear Daily 2024.

[11-12] ibid.

[13] Shrimpton Couture 2024a.

[14] Metropolitan Museum New York 2024c.

[15] Philadelphia Museum of Art 2024.


Sources

Daily Mail, Carey Mulligan reveals her Oscars gown included a sweet tribute to Felicia Montealegre and Leonard Bernstein as she declares it’s ‘my favourite dress I’ve ever worn’, last accessed on 15 March 2024.

Fashion Channel (YouTube), ZUHAIR MURAD Spring Summer 2009 Haute Couture, last accessed on 15 March 2024.

Galerie Dior 2024, Junon, Haute Couture Fall/Winter 1949, Milieu-du-Siècle line, last accessed on 15 March 2024.

Metropolitan Museum New York, Costume Institute, Junon Dress, last accessed on 15 March 2024.

Metropolitan Museum New York, Costume Institute, Vénus Dress, last accessed on 15 March 2024.

Metropolitan Museum New York, Costume Institute, Evening dress, House of Balenciaga, last accessed on 15 March 2024.

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Woman’s Evening Ensemble: Dress, Overdress, Bustle, and Petticoat, Spring 1951, Designed by Cristóbal Balenciaga, last accessed on 15 March 2024.

Shrimpton Couture, Reel about Carey Mulligan’s Balenciaga Dress for the Oscars 2024, last accessed on 15 March 2024.

Vogue, Christian Dior, Spring 2010 Couture, last accessed on 15 March 2024.

Vogue, Christian Dior, Spring 2017 Couture, last accessed on 15 March 2024.

Women’s Wear Daily, How Leonard Bernstein’s Wife Felicia Montealegre’s Love Affair With Fashion Influenced New York’s High Society, last accessed on 15 March 2024.

Pictures Sources Title Image: Instagram Dior & Andrew Mukamal.


Disclaimer

This article is based on the personal, views, experiences and research of Elisabeth Steiger, no fees were received by the organisations and people mentioned above.

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