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Christian Dior: Thank-you, John. Thank-you. Thank-you. Thank-you. Thank-you. Thank-you. Who hasn’t longed for John Galliano to stage an antic-free Christian Dior collection focused solely on his fabulous clothes?

In the weeks preceding Galliano’s show for the house on Tuesday, rumors buzzed that this would be it — a full-on celebration of honest-to-goodness real clothes, clothes for women to buy and wear by day as well as night, the better to flaunt the designing side of his genius. (He reminds us constantly of the showmanship side.)

In most walks of life, such information would be met with a quizzical, “Huh?” But for those of us in fashion, this is big news. Retailers and editors long ago grew itchy for a change, and Galliano knew it. Perhaps because of such outside urging or internal pressure, if such existed, or maybe simply because he felt ready to move on, he decided finally to change his m.o. for spring. In fact, he had hinted at the change with his jacket initiative for November delivery, with ads featuring Riley Keough set to break in December magazines. The shift exploded into full flower on the runway, without compromising a bit of the Galliano essence. He put his fancy, his guts, his joie de mode, his remarkable imagination and skill all on proud display, and it made for gleeful viewing.

An idea-a-minute man, Galliano presented the collection in four sections inspired variously by Keough, Kirsten Dunst, Kate Moss and Gisele Bündchen, some more obviously than others. But no matter the clarity of source, the core message tolled loudly from the first look out, a denim-trimmed ivory bouclé suit fluffed up with little wafts of fringe: These are real times chez Dior.

Galliano offered a gentle mix of tailoring and flou in combinations unfettered enough to allow the audience to take in at least some of the intricate glories of the clothes: a crocheted cardigan and organza dress, both trimmed with ribbons; a coat made of alternating bands of white leather and lace over a bouclé dress; an A-line dream coat in floral-embroidered denim. He went sweet with those mixes of knits, flowers and lace; feisty with tight, bright Barbie argyles, and even tough with megaspangled tailoring, perhaps the show’s only jarring note. But then, he had a point to make: There is no one Dior woman; rather, wildly diverse types can turn to the house for their fashion fill. And that includes satiating their ever-expanding accessories yen, most notably with his terrific bag-of-the-season candidate, a roomy two-pocket affair with a square, zip-off bottom, overstuffed with chic and functionality.

This story first appeared in the October 6, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Galliano finished with a flower-child brigade, some of whom worked chichi jackets atypical of the original Scarborough Fair set. Others wore Ts decorated with the slogan, “Dior not war.” This made for a bit of irony as, while the designer flashed his antiwar message from the runway, outside the tent, his steadfast antifur foes protested his work. But whatever one’s politics, there’s no arguing Dior’s new showtime platform, one that will translate so beautifully at retail come spring.