Retrospective: Christian Dior Haute Couture S/S 2009 by John Galliano and it`s inspiration, the Flemish Painters

The distinctive Flemish style emerged in the early 15th century based on manuscript illumination and the work of early Christian artists of the Carolingian period. Artists of the era embraced the church and their art was strongly influenced by Christian parables, stories and Biblical sermons.

Flemish painting is characterized by extraordinary subtlety, attention to detail, vivid colours, and inspired technique. The medium oil painting on panel was invented by Flemish master Jan van Eyck. He is credited with developing illusionist effects, and luminosity with the newly invented oil glazes. This new medium allowed the smooth blending of colors, the use of transparent glazes, and ability to go back in and change the same section over and over again.

John Galliano revived the elements of the Flemish Painter`s style and the fashion of their time into his spring/summer 2009 Haute Couture for Christian Dior. Here is a retrospective look at this wonderful collection, it`s details and the original paintings that inspired it.


Madonna`s were typically depicted in red dresses so queens adopted the colour to add the association of holiness and nobility to their -already royal- image. Galliano perfectly immitates the shape of Queen Elisabeth`s dress.


Left: 'The Lucca Madonna', Jan Van Eyck 1436, right: Queen Elisabeth I, Steven Van der Meulen 1563

The decorative flower bordure of the runway dress derives from the typical Flemish flower still life.

1 - Jan Brueghel the Elder Vase with Flowers 1609-1615

'Vase with Flowers', Jan Brueghel the Elder 1609-1615


The strong yellow colour can also be found in Pieter Bruegel`s 'Procession to Calvary' and the collar- and sleeve ruffles are a perfect re-work of the time`s typical Ruff Collar.

2 - collage

Left: 'The Procession to Calvary' (detail), Pieter Bruegel the Elder 1564, right: 'Portrait of a Flemish Lady', Anthony Van Dyck 1618


The inside of the dress is decorated with the famous Delft porcelain print, which is still around in the Netherlands and Belgium today.

3 - collage

Antique Delft Porcelain


Here Galliano combines still life flower details with a precise re-work of the drapery of Saint Barbara`s dress.

4 - collage

Left: 'Bouquet', Jan Brueghel the Elder 1606, right: 'Saint Barbara', Jan Van Eyck 1437


The Dior dresses satin almost has the same colour and texture as the dress of the Marchesa (you can see it in the falling of the light).

5 - Sir Peter Paul Rubens Marchesa Brigida Spinola Doria, 1606

Marchesa Brigida Spinola Doria, Peter Paul Rubens 1606


Royal-blue flower print only embroidered on the upper part of the dress and the absence of jewellery or accessories create a tasteful, noble simplicity and stays true to the look of the original Delft template.

6 - delft

Delft Ceramic Design


The distinctive 15th century black & white and white lace V-neck collar receive a "french glamour update" through the pearl choker.

7 - collage

Left: 'A young lady', Petrus Christus ca. 1470, right: Wife of Tommaso Portinari (part of diptychon), Hans Memling ca. 1470


The runway-hairstyle`s inspiration shows in both paintings below. The pointed V-shape and the downward flower print can be found on the right side of the right painting.


Left: 'Virgin and child with Saints and Donor' (detail), Jan Van Eyck 1441, right: 'Maria Baroncelli with daugthers', Hugo van der Goes 1476-1478


The runway feather-hat is an interpretation of the hat in the Rubens portrait below and, of course, worn edgewise as the past`s fashion requires it.

9 - Peter-Paul-Rubens-Susanna Lunden

Portrait of Susanna Lunden, Peter Paul Rubens ca. 1622-5

Sources: 1 , Picture sources: 1 2 3

John Galliano captured the look, the colours in particular, brilliantly and paid great attention to detail like the brocade seams or blue flowers.

I love how Galliano picked up inspiration from this particular school of painting and think it`s legitimate how precise he went into detail. It is as if the artists would communicate with each other through time in their art and in this case it is particularly interesting and creative because different forms of art (fashion and tailoring meet painting) are enriching each other.

I find this kind of "revival" or inspiration of old masterpieces / styles much more stimulating than most designer`s attempts of "originality". Instead of "trying to invent the world in a new way over and over again" designers may also focus on perfectioning the masterpieces of the past, which also ensures the preservation of our unique culture in a globalized world ruled by capitalism, that tries to make us all the same, to lure all of us into desiring and therefore consuming the same things.

Cultural identity and religion is what is within us, it is the essence that makes us who we are. Please fashion, stay true to that!

How do you like Galliano`s interpretation of the Flemish Painters?

Would you like to see more fashion that is obviously inspired by art, religion and history?